Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition that affects the nerves and causes disruption to the way that messages are carried to the brain. This can result in a range of symptoms that may be invisible, mild, moderate, or severe. There is currently no cure for MS, but it can be treated and managed.
The treatment may depend on the type of MS that is diagnosed, and the individual symptoms that are present. The NHS reports that there have been considerable advances in treatments over the past 20 years, and research into new therapies is continually ongoing.
There are two main types of MS: relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) and primary progressive MS. The former type is the most common, making up between 80% and 90% of all MS diagnosis. Symptoms may flare up and then relapse or even disappear at intervals. In some cases, periods of remittance can last for several years.
According to the NHS, about two thirds of people with relapsing remitting MS will go on to develop secondary progressive MS, which involves a gradual worsening of symptoms rather than peaks and troughs of severity.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS) is diagnosed in 10-15% of people with the condition. In this case, symptoms develop gradually and become worse over time, with no marked relapses. In some cases, early relapses may occur in PPMS, and this is referred to as active primary progressive MS.
Symptoms for all types of the condition can be similar, but they can also vary in severity and some people will not experience all of the symptoms. The most common include fatigue, problems with walking, balance and muscle coordination, blurred vision, and muscle stiffness and spasms.
Identifying the right treatment for MS requires expert medical advice, because it depends on the type of disease, the symptoms present, and how far the condition has progressed. While there is no cure, in some cases the progression of the disease can be slowed down, and the severity of the symptoms can be eased.
According to the MS Society, everyone who has been diagnosed with the condition should be offered a review of their treatment with a specialist at least once a year.
RRMS can be treated with disease modifying therapies (DMTs). There are already various products that have been approved for use in the UK, and an MS specialist will be able to advise about which ones are the most suitable for individual patients.
DMTs are not usually used to treat people with secondary or primary progressive MS, although there are some exceptions. The MS society reports that a new drug called ocrelizumab (Ocrevus) can be used to treat PPMS if caught in the early stages, and the person meets certain eligibility criteria.
Alongside treatments, symptoms can be managed by rehabilitation therapies including physiotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy.
Mr Jonathan Hyam of Amethyst Radiotherapy is a specialist in treating multiple sclerosis and nerves damage.
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