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Current Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

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Presentation: Multiple Sclerosis
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Reviewed By: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are many types of treatments. These treatments don't make MS disappear, but they can help to manage the symptoms.
Treatments for MS fall into three basic categories:
* Treatments that manage the exacerbations or relapses, which are the attacks where new symptoms appear or your old symptoms get worse.
* Treatments that modify the disease itself.
* And treatments that manage the symptoms.
Myelin is a fatty substance that insulates most nerves and helps speed up the communication between your brain and other parts of your body
MS exacerbations are usually accompanied by inflammation and breakdown of the myelin in the central nervous system. If your symptoms are severe, high doses of steroids, such as methylprednisolone, may be given through an IV to reduce the swelling and inflammation that contribute to demyelination.
A number of newer drugs have been shown to modify the course of multiple sclerosis. These medications work by altering or suppressing the activity of your immune system. A group of drugs called "beta interferons" mimic a protein that occurs naturally in your body. They appear to block certain white blood cells from attacking the myelin covering of the nerves. They also seem to stop other white blood cells, called T cells, from releasing cytokines -- which are chemicals that encourage inflammation and attract other immune cells to the area.
In addition to beta interferon, another drug called glatimer acetate also seems to have an effect by altering the immune system. This drug appears to increase the number of certain white blood cells that stop other cells from attacking the myelin.
In a two-year study, the disease-modifying therapies currently available reduced MS relapses rates by an average of 30%. These drugs are given by injection, and can require daily to weekly injections.
Finally, there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms of MS. These treatments can include things like using botulinum toxin type A or baclofen to reduce muscle stiffness (also known as spasticity). Botulinum toxin type A is an injection and baclofen can be given in pill form or through a small, implantable pump.
Another treatment is deep brain stimulation, which uses a small electrode to stimulate a certain part of the brain. This can reduce the tremors sometimes seen in people with MS.
Additional treatments can include physical therapy and occupational therapy. Talking with a counselor may also be beneficial.
Finally, some people with MS turn to alternative treatments, which can include anything from medications and supplements to a new diet or even a new lifestyle.

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