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Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

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What Are the Side Effects of MS Treatments?

Do-It-Yourself Shots continued...

It can also make you have chest pain, a racing heart, or shortness of breath, but it's not likely. This reaction is rare and if it happens, it’s usually only once or twice. It doesn't seem to be dangerous, but it can be frightening if you don't expect it.

Let your doctor know if it happens. He'll check to make sure the medicine is still OK for you.

Most side effects of injectable drugs go away after a few months, but tell your doctor if they bother you. He may be able to suggest a different drug.

Through Your Vein

You can also get your MS medicine into your system through an IV inserted into your vein. The IV might irritate your skin and cause redness around the needle, but you don’t have to get them very often.

One of the medicines doctors can drip into your system via an IV helps reduce the inflammation of MS. It's called natalizumab (Tysabri). It might give you a headache and some joint pain. It can make you tired, but the fatigue tends to get better on its own. It’s okay to take over-the-counter medicines for pain.

If you have a common and otherwise harmless virus, called the JC virus, this drug can trigger a dangerous brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). "We deal with that risk by testing patients regularly for the virus," Leist says. "As long as they don't have the virus, they can't get PML."

Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada) is another IV drug you can use to treat relapsing forms of MS. If you take this, you might have more side effects -- including rash, nausea, fatigue, and pain -- than with other MS medicines. You’re more likely to get infections and immune system problems. Because of these safety issues, doctors will have you try at least two other medications before this.

Take Your Pills

Some MS drugs come as pills. You can’t take them if you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant. “They get through the placenta early in a pregnancy and can affect a baby's organ growth,” Leist says. Other side effects include diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.

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