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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - Medications

Relieving symptoms continued...

Medicines can also help with sexual problems, emotional problems, and walking problems. Sildenafil (Viagra) can help with sexual problems in both men and women. Yohimbine and clomipramine may also be given to improve erectile dysfunction. Dextromethorphan and quinidine (Nuedexta) is a medicine that can be used for uncontrollable outbursts of crying or laughing at strange or inappropriate times. Dalfampridine (Ampyra) is a medicine that can be used to help with walking problems.

Medicine may be used only some of the time or regularly, depending on how severe or constant a certain symptom is. Changes in diet, schedule, exercise, and other habits can also help manage some of these symptoms. See Home Treatment.

Medicines being studied

A variety of other medicines and biological chemicals have been tried or are being studied as therapy for MS. None of them have been clearly proved as beneficial, and none have been approved for treatment of MS.

Several medicines are being tested in clinical trials. People with MS who have not responded to standard therapy sometimes choose to take part in these trials. To learn more about clinical trials, talk to your doctor or contact the National Multiple Sclerosis Society at www.nationalmssociety.org.

Deciding about disease-modifying therapy

The National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that people with a definite diagnosis of MS and active, relapsing disease start treatment with interferon beta or glatiramer. Most neurologists support this recommendation and now agree that permanent damage to the nervous system may occur early on, even while symptoms are still quite mild. Early treatment may help prevent or delay some of this damage. In general, treatment is recommended until it no longer provides a clear benefit.

The National MS Society also says that treatment with medicine may be considered after the first attack in some people who are at a high risk for MS (before MS is definitely diagnosed).

Despite the recommendation, some people find it hard to decide whether to begin disease-modifying therapy, especially when their symptoms have been fairly mild. Some may not want to bear the risks and side effects of medicine when they are not sure they need it. Some may want to see whether their disease gets worse before they start therapy. A small percentage of people diagnosed with MS may never have more than a few mild episodes and may never develop any disability, but the disease is unpredictable.

Multiple Sclerosis: Should I Start Taking Medicines for MS?

Treating symptoms and relapses

The need and desire for medicine vary. If your symptoms are mild, you may choose to manage them without any medicine. If you have specific symptoms that are causing problems, certain medicines may help you keep them under control. Or you may want to use medicine only during a relapse.

You may also want to think about:

  • The possible side effects of using steroids or other medicines to treat symptoms or control a relapse. Some people have only minor side effects. But others may have side effects that concern them more than their MS symptoms.
  • The costs of treating symptoms and controlling relapses. In some cases, using medicine to control symptoms and relapses may reduce the need for hospital stays.
  • Other personal issues that you face at work or at home.

Also keep in mind that it can be hard to tell if medicine is helping. Multiple sclerosis is a disease with spontaneous remissions. This means that your condition can improve on its own, without any treatment. Just because your symptoms improve after treatment doesn't mean that a treatment is working.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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