By Robert Preidt
MONDAY, April 23, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Most multiple sclerosis patients shouldn't wait to start taking medication in the early stages of the disease, new guidelines say.
"The treatment landscape for people with MS has changed dramatically over the last decade," said lead guidelines author Dr. Alexander Rae-Grant, who's with the Cleveland Clinic.
"We now have a number of disease-modifying therapies to choose from that may help treat MS by changing how the disease affects people over time by slowing the disease process," Rae-Grant explained in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology.
The new guidelines, issued by the academy, took into account studies on MS drugs and concluded that it's best to start use of MS drugs as early as possible. That's because there is moderate or strong evidence that several drugs can slow and stabilize the disease process.
Even while taking medications, disease activity may return for some patients. If that occurs, these patients may need to switch to another MS drug shown to lower the risk of disease activity returning, according to the guidelines.
The guidelines also say that while some patients with stable MS may consider going off their medications because they have no signs of the disease, there is little information on the benefits or risks of stopping MS drugs.
Patients need to be aware of the potential risks of MS medicines and should discuss the benefits and risks with their doctor before deciding to start, switch or stop using an MS drug, the guidelines state.
The guidelines were published online April 23 in the journal Neurology and presented this week at the academy's annual meeting, in Los Angeles. They are endorsed by the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
MS, which affects about 400,000 Americans and is a leading cause of disability among young adults, is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the central nervous system.
Symptoms include vision problems, muscle weakness, bladder or bowel dysfunction, tremors, trouble with coordination, and thinking and emotional problems.