Multiple sclerosis (MS) causes many symptoms that can affect different parts of your body and brain. It’s different for each person, so doctors treat your specific symptoms, whether your disease affects your mind, body, emotions, or any combination of the three.
Many people with MS take medicines to change the course of the disease. Many drugs slow the progress of MS in the brain and spinal cord. They can limit the number of relapses you have and slow the progression of any problems.
You’d get some by injection, such as:
- Glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)
- Interferon beta-1a (Avonex)
- Interferon beta-1b (Betaseron, Extavia, Rebif)
- Peginterferon beta-1a (Plegridy)
Others come in pills:
- Dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)
- Fingolimod (Gilenya)
- Teriflunomide (Aubagio)
Still others you get through an IV infusion, such as:
- Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)
- Mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
- Natalizumab (Tysabri)
- Ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)
You and your doctor will figure out which medicine is right for you.
If you have a severe relapse, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids. You may know them as steroids. They’re strong meds that can shorten your relapse. You may get a high-dose medication through an IV, like methylprednisolone (Solu-Medrol), or a high dose in pill form, such as prednisone (Deltasone). Your doctor may have you try repository corticotropin (H.P. Acthar). It can your body make more steroid hormones.
Other drugs can treat symptoms that only affect some people with MS. Your doctor will know whether a medication is right for you based on your symptoms. For example:
If you have vertigo or dizziness because of your MS, your doctor may prescribe meclizine (Antivert).
If MS causes you pain, your doctor may give you medicines like:
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Carbamazepine (Tegetrol)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin)
- Nortriptyline (Aventyl, Pamelor)
- Phenytoin (Dilantin)
If you have trouble walking, your doctor may prescribe dalfampridine (Ampyra).
If you have spastic muscles, which can cause pain, muscle tightness, or walking problems, your doctor may suggest:
- Baclofen (Gablofen, Lioresal)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Dantrolene (Dantrium)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Onabotulinum toxin A (Botox)
- Tizanidine (Zanaflex)
For tremors, clonazepam or isoniazid (Laniazid, Nydrazid) can help.
To help with the fatigue MS can bring, your doctor may give you amantadine, fluoxetine (Prozac), or modafinil (Provigil).
If you become depressed, your doctor may prescribe one of several antidepressants. If you sometimes can’t control the urge to laugh or cry, your doctor may prescribe dextromethorphan hydrobromide (Nuedexta).
Other medications treat sexual problems or issues with bladder or bowel control. Talk with your doctor about which ones may be right for you.
Your doctor may recommend therapy to help you keep your independence.
If you need help with your balance, muscle strength, or ability to walk, your doctor may suggest physical therapy. Your therapist may put you on an exercise program, or you may learn how to use tools to help you move better, like canes, scooters, crutches, or wheelchairs.
If you need help to get dressed, do things around the house, or complete tasks at work, your doctor may recommend occupational therapy (OT). You’ll learn how to conserve energy, and you’ll find out about tools you can use to make everyday tasks easier.
OT may also help if you need treatment for problems with learning, thinking, and memory.
If you have trouble with your speech or it’s tough to swallow liquids or food, your doctor may recommend that you see a speech-language pathologist.
Other treatments include:
Emotional support. If you feel depressed or have other mood changes, your doctor may suggest that you see a mental health professional. It can also be helpful to talk about your feelings with friends and family.
Exercise. Regular activity can help you feel less tired, improve your mood, and help with bladder and bowel function. If you stretch often, it may ease stiffness and help you move better.
Stress management. Stress affects people in different ways. Doctors aren’t sure if it makes some MS symptoms worse, but if you ease the stress in your life, it may help with symptoms. It’s good for your overall health, too.
Acupuncture. This traditional Chinese technique involves a specialist who would insert thin needles in points on your body to help the flow of energy. Some doctors suggest acupuncture for people with MS. See if your doctor thinks it’s right for you.