Multiple Sclerosis Treatment: What Are the Options?
Navigating the world of multiple sclerosis (MS) can be a daunting task at times. Whether you have been diagnosed for several years or you are newly diagnosed, the ever-changing nature of MS makes living with it a challenge.
From the randomness of relapses or flares to the unpredictable progression, it is enough to drive a person mad. Fortunately for some, some MS treatments make this seemingly insurmountable beast somewhat tameable.
Traditional Multiple Sclerosis Treatment Options
Many multiple sclerosis treatment options exist for MS. There are pills, injections, infusions, and several alternative treatments available. Finding the one that will give you the best results is key.
When I was diagnosed in 2016, my neurologist initially tried Tecfidera, a twice a day pill that helps to keep the troublesome symptoms of MS at bay. Unfortunately, I did not have success with this treatment, so my physician referred me to a doctor that specializes in multiple sclerosis. My MS physician then put me on Ocrevus, an infusion that I receive every six months. While I have had no new lesions with this infusion therapy, I have had no relief of symptoms and have acquired new ones.
There are many different types of multiple sclerosis:
- Relapsing-remitting (RRMS).
- Primary progressive (PPMS).
- Secondary progressive (SPMS).
- Progressive relapsing (PRMS).
Since I have been diagnosed with RRMS, I will focus on the treatments that help this form of MS. The following are some traditional multiple sclerosis treatment options for RRMS:
- Oral therapy is a common choice for those that are not comfortable with needles. They require a regular dosing schedule and are taken either once or twice daily. These include: Tecfidera (dimethyl fumarate), Aubagio (teriflunomide), and Gilenya (fingolimod).
- Self-injectables offer the most options to choose from. You will be trained by a health professional on how to administer this medication. They include: Betaseron (interferon beta-1b), Avonex (interferon beta-1a), Copaxone (glatiramer acetate), Zinbryta (daclizumab), Plegridy (pegylated interferon beta-1a), Rebif (interferon beta-1a), Extavia (interferon beta-1b), and Glatopa (glatiramer acetate).
- Intravenous infusions are injected directly into the vein and are not required as often as self-injectables. These include: Ocrevus (ocrelizumab), Lemtrada (alemtuzumab), Tysabri (natalizumab), and Novantrone (mitoxantrone).
All of these options, as with any medication, come with side effects that may include:
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Redness, pain and/or swelling at the injection site.
- Low white blood cell count.
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.
- Joint pain.
This is not a complete list of possible side effects. Consult the medication’s website or your physician for a more complete list. Many of the medications also require regular blood monitoring.
Natural Therapies for MS
If you want to steer clear of chemical treatments, did you know there are also natural ways to help treat your symptoms of MS? They are far less expensive than traditional treatments and for some, may be more effective.
Though they have medicinal properties, many are not FDA approved or have not yet been researched as a proven method of managing MS symptoms.
- Ashwagandha is an Indian herb also known as the “Queen of Ayurveda.” It has been shown to help with stress, cancer, and neurological diseases. The leaves of the plant helps with memory and other cognitive functions, while the root can help with mobility or movement issues.
- Ginkgo Biloba has been shown to help with fatigue and the other troublesome symptoms of MS just by taking this supplement daily.
- Dandelion root and leaf have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents and can also help relieve fatigue, a common symptom of MS.
- Ginger also has strong anti-inflammatory properties, among many other things to help with MS symptoms.
- Turmeric is a natural herb that is commonly used as seasoning. It contains curcuminoids that have been shown to have neuroprotective properties which are important for neurologic diseases like MS.
- Chinese hemp seed is becoming a more popular choice for help in managing MS symptoms. It has a calming effect on the central nervous system and can help with spasticity. Part of the cannabis family, it contains fatty acids that make it a great option for a natural treatment of multiple sclerosis.
- Because vitamin D deficiency has been shown to play a major part in the development of MS, taking this supplement helps eliminate or at least ease many MS symptoms.
- DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is an omega-3 fatty acid that can be found in fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel. It can help with inflammation, neurological function and to protect the central nervous system.
- Magnesium can be found naturally in green leafy vegetables, fish, and nuts or as a supplement in pill form. It is an excellent source to help with myelin damage.
As always, check with your physician before making any changes to your multiple sclerosis treatment plan.