Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable disease because it has different variations and will affect each person differently. Although MS cannot be cured, there are approaches to reduce the severity of symptoms and possibly reduce significant disability.
Start Treatment Early
Generally, it is better to start treatment for MS soon after diagnosis to give you the best possible outcome. Unfortunately, most available treatment options tend to be for those with the relapsing-remitting type (RRMS). For those with RRMS, the overall approach to treatment is to reduce the frequency of flare-ups with disease-modifying medications and to reduce the intensity and damage of flare-ups when they occur with steroids. Much like other autoimmune diseases that may have periods of remission, keeping the disease at a low level of activity may reduce long-term damage. Even if you have another form of MS, such as primary progressive, it does not mean there are no treatments available. Your treatment options may focus more on improving symptoms as they appear.
Regardless of the type of MS you have, remaining an engaged patient can improve your outcomes. Many people with MS will face challenges that can take the form of new, worsening symptoms that impact physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning. You should always keep your neurologist and primary care doctor abreast of any new or worsening symptoms. This will allow to make referrals promptly if you need additional members to your care team. For example, the diagnosis of MS in itself may cause people to deal with anxiety or depression. The disease may also cause changes in the brain that may further increase your risk of mental health concerns. If this were to occur, adding mental health professionals to your care team to find the appropriate diagnosis and treatment might prevent unnecessary decline in functioning or your quality of life.
Whether you are in the early stages of MS and have little to no obvious impairments in your motor skills or have profound effects, moving for as long as possible remains imperative to limit disability. Many people with MS that do not have severe effects try to maintain an exercise routine, even if it involves walking around the neighborhood with or without assistance. For people with more significant limitations, regular physical therapy can help keep their joints and muscles pliable and potentially reduce muscle wasting. Moving on your own or with the help of a physical therapist can help stimulate the nerves that may be damaged and possibly slow progression and help you maintain physical functioning longer.
With better diagnosis and management of MS, more people are continuing to function independently for decades after their diagnosis. For more information, contact a neurologist.