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How Multiple Sclerosis Is Treated

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Treating Exacerbations

Your MS medications are designed to prevent flare-ups, but you can still get exacerbations and sometimes they can seriously interfere with your ability to get around. Mild exacerbations will eventually go away on their own, so if they're not bothering you, you don't need to treat them. On the other hand, if a flare-up is getting in the way of your life, your doctor may give you high-dose steroids through a vein (intravenously) to bring the flare-up to a speedier end. Steroids won't slow down the course of your overall disease, though.

In a small percentage of people with very severe relapses that don't respond to steroids, doctors might recommend a technique called plasma exchange. During this procedure, your blood is removed and the liquid portion (plasma) is separated out from the white and red blood cells. The plasma is replaced before the blood is put back into your body.

Other Ways to Cope

To target specific symptoms of MS, including fatigue, muscle stiffness, depression, and bladder problems, you can take other medications, including:

Working with a physical therapist can teach you how to do exercises that will help keep you more active. If you have lost some physical ability, a cane, walker, or braces can make it easier to get around.

It's vital to start medication for your MS as early as possible, and to continue taking it over the long term so that it can prevent further damage and slow the progression of the disease. Because you will be on the MS drugs indefinitely, it's important for you to be comfortable with them. If your side effects are intolerable or the medication isn't helping, talk to your doctor. You may need to switch to a different drug.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on June 28, 2014
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