Multiple sclerosis comes forth as the most challenging disease when it comes to understanding, preventing, and treating chronic disorders.
Till date, multiple sclerosis has no cure. Scientists are toiling hard to find a remedy for this autoimmune disease that affects one’s brain and spinal cord. However, treatment is available to manage the patient’s condition and to mellow the symptoms.
Certain medications are used to slow down the progression of multiple sclerosis in order to help the patient maintain a normal quality of life. These medications are recommended for long-term use.
Corticosteroids- Corticosteroids are man-made drugs that closely resemble cortisol, a hormone that your adrenal glands produce naturally. Corticosteroids are often referred to by the shortened term "steroids."
Steroids are used to reduce the inflammation that spikes during a relapse. oral prednisone and intravenous methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol) are some examples of steroids used to treat multiple sclerosis.
These corticosteroids come with a list of side-effects such as mood swings, seizures, weight gain and an increased risk of infections.
Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)- Plasmapheresis is a process involving the following steps:
It removes the circulating antibodies that are thought to be active in these diseases. Plasma exchange is done on the patients who do not respond to intravenous steroids due to severe symptoms of multiple sclerosis relapse.
Beta interferons- Avonex, Betaseron, extavia and Rebif are types of drugs that have been observed to slow down the progress of the disease, reduce the number of attacks and lessen the severity of attacks.
Reaction at the injection area and liver damage are some side effects posed by interferons. However, any serious or permanent damages are rarely seen. Blood tests are needed to monitor the patient’s liver function and blood count.
Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)- This medication is prescribed to reduce the number of MS attacks. Glatiramer acetate blocks your immune system’s attack on myelin. The drug is injected under the patient’s skin (subcutaneously) once daily.
Flushing, chest pain, or heart palpitations after injection are some rare uncommon but possible outcomes. The patient might also suffer reaction at the injection site.
Fingolimod (Gilenya)- It is an oral medicine given once daily to trap immune cells in lymph nodes. It helps reduce MS attacks and short-term disability.
After the first dose of this drug, the patient’s heart rate is monitored for six hours as this first dose can slow down the heart beat. The patient also needs to be immune to the chickenpox virus (varicella-zoster virus). Other side effects may include diarrhoea, cough and headache.
Natalizumab (Tysabri)- This medication interferes with the movement of potentially damaging immune cells from your bloodstream to your brain and spinal cord, hence reducing the number of MS attacks.
People, who see no results from or can’t tolerate other drugs, are given natalizumab. This medication increases the risk of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) — a brain infection that usually is fatal.
Physical Therapy- An occupational therapist can teach you stretching and strengthening exercises. One can also learn from them to use devices that help it easier for us to perform our daily tasks.
Muscle relaxants- People with MS experience painful or uncontrollable muscle stiffness, particularly in their legs. Muscle relaxants such as baclofen (Lioresal) and tizanidine (Zanaflex) may improve muscle spasticity.
Weakness, weight gain and excessive sweating are some side-effects related to baclofen. And tizanidine can cause drowsiness or a dry mouth.
Other medications- Medications also may be prescribed for depression, pain, and bladder or bowel control problems that may be associated with multiple sclerosis.
Several investigations are going on to find some other drugs and procedures to treat multiple sclerosis. Stem cell transplantation is one such process being studied. In a stem cell transplant, doctors inject healthy stem cells into your body to replace diseased stem cells.
Read more articles on Multiple Sclerosis.
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