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Treating Multiple Sclerosis With IV Steroids

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Medications such as Solu-Medrol and Decadron are potent steroids that ease inflammation and are often used to treat an acute attack of multiple sclerosis.

During an acute attack of multiple sclerosis -- also called exacerbations or relapses -- there is a distinct increase in the severity of symptoms. The onset of the attack may take several days or weeks. New symptoms may appear, or your existing symptoms (such as numbness, tingling, slurred speech, or blurred vision) may flare up or worsen.

When attacks occur, you may receive Solu-Medrol or Decadron at a treatment center each day for one to five days, depending on your treatment plan.

What Can I Expect the Day of Steroid Treatment?

Plan to be at the medical center for about one hour on the day(s) of your IV steroid treatment. You may receive blood tests before the treatment to monitor your complete blood count, sodium, and potassium levels.

The nurse will also check your blood pressure and pulse before and after the treatment. The medication is given by intravenous drip for 30 to 45 minutes or injected directly into a vein.

After the treatment, you can return to your normal daily activities, including driving.

Patients generally receive a one- to five-day course of intravenous treatment with steroids. Following the treatments, you may be asked to take an oral form of a steroid called prednisone. Your nurse will give you a written schedule of when and how often to take the drug.

You may also be given a prescription for a medication to reduce stomach irritation.

Are There Side Effects of IV Steroids?

Not everyone experiences side effects from IV steroid treatment, but the most common are:

  • Stomach irritation, such as indigestion and heartburn
  • Increased energy
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Flushing of the face, neck, or chest
  • Feeling warm or cool
  • Retaining fluid (avoid table salt and salty foods)
  • Mood changes (euphoria, irritability, nervousness, restlessness) or mood swings
  • Metallic taste in the mouth
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

Long-term side effects of steroids may include:

  • Bone-thinning osteoporosis
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Cataracts
  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Diabetes

Since steroid use can increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, it is beneficial to include more dairy products into your diet while on this therapy. You can also talk with your doctor about calcium supplements with vitamin D.

Does Insurance Cover IV Steroid Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis?

Insurance coverage for IV steroid treatment of multiple sclerosis varies greatly, depending on individual insurance plans, but it is usually covered.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Neil Lava, MD on April 13, 2014
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