Whether it’s to reduce the frequency of MS flare-ups, slow the progression of the disease or allow people to continue to work and live more independently, ms treatment may help you live your best life. But these treatments can be expensive, and it’s important to know how to manage your costs so you can make the best decision about which treatments are right for you.
Disease modifying therapies (DMTs) reduce the severity and frequency of MS symptoms, such as numbness and tingling, fatigue, muscle spasticity, and memory problems. These medications, which are available only by prescription, can also slow down the rate of disability accumulation in some people with relapsing-remitting MS and primary progressive MS.
There are four DMTs that can be used in combination to treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: fingolimod (Glabride), ocrelizumab (Ocrevus), leflunomide (Avonex, Rebif), and teriflunomide (Aubagio). Each of these medications has advantages and risks. The effectiveness of each differs from one person to the next, and some drugs have greater side effects than others.
Steroids can reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system, which can reduce relapses and shorten the time to recovery from an acute flare-up of MS symptoms. Examples of steroids include prednisone (a pill) and methylprednisolone (a shot). They can also be given after a stroke or head injury to prevent permanent damage to nerve fibers.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into points along channels in your body called meridians. The Chinese believe that this changes energy flow, or chi, and can help with illness or pain. Some studies suggest that acupuncture can improve fatigue, spasticity, and bladder problems.
Other DMTs include natalizumab (Tysabri), mitoxantrone (Mylantrone), and cladribine (Mavenclad). They’re injectable medicines that stop your body from attacking the sheath that protects your nerves. Glatiramer (Copaxone, Glatopa) is a pill that stops your immune system from attacking the sheath in some types of MS.
Several experimental drugs are in clinical trials. They’re designed to promote the growth of new neurons and repair the damage caused by your immune system to the myelin sheaths that surround and protect your nerves. These experimental medications have the potential to significantly reduce the length and severity of MS episodes and shorten the period of remission.
In addition to DMTs, you can also use behavior therapy to manage your symptoms and stay active. This might involve learning how to rest your eyes when you’re tired and pace yourself to finish tasks. It might also mean adjusting your lifestyle to reduce activities that can cause MS symptoms, such as taking breaks when fatigued or using assistive devices for daily activities. You can find a support group to help you cope with the challenges of living with MS. You can also discuss your feelings about MS with a counselor. Many communities have programs that help people with MS afford their medications and other costs of living with the disease. Talk to your neurologist about these resources. They might be able to recommend foundations and other programs that can help.