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Treatment Options


There is no single test that is proof-positive for diagnosing multiple sclerosis. Most commonly, an accurate diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is based on your medical history and a neurological exam (an exam of the function of the brain and spinal cord) using various tests. A lot depends on the skill of the doctor in asking the right questions to uncover information and to properly evaluate the signs and symptoms of a malfunctioning brain or spinal cord.

In addition to a thorough medical history and exam, a variety of specialized procedures are helpful -- although not always necessary -- to accurately diagnose MS. These include imaging techniques, such as MRI, spinal taps or lumbar punctures (examination of the cerebrospinal fluid that runs through the spinal column), evoked potentials (electrical tests to help determine if MS has affected a person's nerve pathways), and lab analysis of blood samples.

Since diagnosing MS can be very difficult, a neurologist who specializes in treating MS should evaluate your symptoms.

Treatment Options Available

Although there is still no cure for MS, effective strategies are available to modify the disease course, treat exacerbations (also called attacks, relapses, or flare-ups), manage symptoms, improve function and safety, and provide emotional support. In combination, these treatments enhance the quality of life for people living with MS.

Modify MS Course

It is recommended that a person consider treatment with one of the FDA-approved "disease-modifying" drugs as soon as possible following a definite diagnosis of MS with active or relapsing disease. These drugs help to lessen the frequency and severity of MS attacks, reduce the accumulation of lesions (areas of damage) in the brain, and may slow the progression of disability.

In addition to drugs that address the basic disease, there are many therapies for MS symptoms such as spasticity, pain, bladder problems, fatigue, sexual dysfunction, weakness, and cognitive problems. People should consult a knowledgeable physician to develop a comprehensive approach to managing their MS.

Treat Exacerbations

An exacerbation of MS is caused by inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS) that causes damage to the myelin and slows or blocks the transmission of nerve impulses. To be a true exacerbation, the attack must last at least 24 hours and be separated from a previous exacerbation by at least 30 days. However, most exacerbations last from a few days to several weeks or even months. Exacerbations can be mild or severe enough to interfere with a person’s ability to function at home and at work. Severe exacerbations are most commonly treated with high-dose corticosteroids to reduce the inflammation.
Manage Symptoms of MS

Symptoms of MS are highly variable from person to person and from time to time in the same individual. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, most can be successfully managed with strategies that include medication, self-care techniques, rehabilitation (with a physical or occupation therapist, speech/language pathologist, cognitive remediation specialist, among others), and the use of assistive devices.

Improve Function & Safety

Rehabilitation programs focus on function—they are designed to help you improve or maintain your ability to perform effectively and safely at home and at work. Rehabilitation professionals focus on overall fitness and energy management, while addressing problems with accessibility and mobility, speech and swallowing, and memory and other cognitive functions.

Rehabilitation is an important component of comprehensive, quality health care for people with MS, at all stages of the disease. Rehabilitation programs include:

  • Physical Therapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Therapy for Speech and Swallowing Problems
  • Cognitive Rehabilitation
  • Vocational Rehabilitation