*Please note: This animation represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
Multiple Sclerosis, or MS, is a complex disease caused by inflammation of the central nervous system.
Most people with MS will take a variety of medications over the course of their illness.
There are three types of therapies used to treat MS.
Interventions to treat symptoms, drugs to treat acute attacks, and drugs that modify the course of the disease.
Interventions to treat symptoms will vary immensely depending on the symptoms of the attack. Interventions may be drug treatments (such as corticosteroids and disease modifying agents) or interventions may be non-drug based (such as physical therapy).
Drugs used to treat acute attacks are believed to help shorten the length and severity of the attack.
The most commonly used is intravenous corticosteroids.
Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is another option to treat acute attacks.
Corticosteroids are not considered long-term solutions. The reason why corticosteroids are for short-term use only is that they have no proven long term efficacy and because of the multiple side effects that can develop.
Disease modifying agents are drugs that you take on a regular basis to reduce the frequency of attacks. Some may also reduce their severity and slow progression to disability.
Most doctors recommend starting on one of these medications as soon as possible following diagnosis of active, relapsing MS.
They work by treating the inflammatory stage of MS. This helps reduce the formation of new lesions responsible for relapses.
The first generation of disease modifying agents need to be injected and are still widely used. These include interferon-beta and glatiramer acetate.
Natalizumab is another injectable medication, however it needs to be delivered intravenously. This means going into a clinic to have it administered by a healthcare professional.
Usually, it is reserved for people who have not responded to other disease-modifying agents.
More recently, medications that can be taken by mouth have become available.
These include fingolimod, teriflunomide, and dimethyl fumarate.
Unfortunately, even though all these disease modifying agents have been proven effective at altering the disease course of relapsing-remitting MS, none have been shown to be particularly helpful for people suffering from primary progressive or secondary progressive MS.
In summary, treatments for MS can be categorized into three groups. Those that treat symptoms, those that treat the attack, and those that help prevent future attacks and limit disease progression.
Several different options are available. You and your doctor will decide which ones are best for you.