Treating MS Early
Unfortunately, feeling well doesn’t always mean your multiple sclerosis (MS) isn’t active. It may be silently causing damage to your central nervous system (CNS), damage that can build up over time. Research suggests that treating your MS soon after your diagnosis can help to prevent permanent damage to your CNS, slowing down the development of disability and improving the long-term outcome of your condition. But remember to talk with your doctor or MS nurse about your options and what might be the best one for you.
- Long-term disability
- Sexual problems (such as loss of sex drive)
- Limitations due to poorer physical health, for example difficulties walking
- Problems with mental health, such as depression and anxiety
MS-related damage to the central nervous system starts early on in the disease and continues to build up, sometimes without you even knowing. These early changes, including brain cell damage, brain atrophy (i.e. shrinkage) and the development of lesions, are important because they have been linked to:
Just like with any disease, the sooner you know about it, the sooner you can start doing something about it. And for people living with relapsing types of multiple sclerosis, research shows that earlier treatment with a disease modifying therapy (DMT) can give better outcomes than starting it later. If treatment with a DMT is started early after diagnosis, it can limit the damage caused early on in MS, reduce relapses, and potentially help to delay disability and its impact on your long-term physical, emotional and mental health.
This is also an important consideration for people who’ve had just one flare up of MS symptoms. In these cases, a DMT may increase the time to another relapse, limit
damage to the CNS and the slow the rate of brain atrophy. For these reasons, it’s important you start discussing treatment with a DMT with your doctor or MS nurse early on in your disease, even if you’re feeling well.
But it’s not just about treating early. Even if you’ve been living with multiple sclerosis for some time, you may benefit from treatment with a DMT. As long as you’re still experiencing relapses, treatment with a DMT may stop or delay further damage, so talk to you doctor or MS nurse about the best time for you to start treatment with a DMT.
Why not create your own Talk to Your Doctor guide to help communicate your treatment priorities at your next appointment?
- Giovanni G et al. 2017. Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis. Available at: https://www.msbrainhealth.org/report. Last accessed: October 2017.
- Gold R et al. Ther Adv Neurol Disord 2010; 3: 351–67.
- Rojas J et al. Arq. Neuro-Psiquiatr 2016; 74(3): 235-243.
- Janardhan V, Bakshi R. Arch Neurol 2000; 57: 1485–1491.
- Tsivgoulis G et al. PLoS One. 2015 Dec 7; 10(12): e0144538.
- Noyes K et al. Am J Manag Care 2013; 19(17 Suppl): s321-31.
Discussing treatment with your neurologist
Explore practical tips and advice on how to approach discussing treatments with your neurologist.
Keeping track of MS
Explore tips and tricks on how to effectively keep track of your MS.
Understanding MS treatment types
Learn about the different types of MS treatments available.