Treating MS involves considering many factors. The patient, along with their healthcare team, should be at the centre of all decision-making. Friends and family can also play an important role throughout the treatment process. While the treatment goals and process may vary from person to person, it is crucial that – along with the proper lifestyle interventions – everyone treat MS symptoms early, monitor disease activity regularly, formally record responses to MS treatments, and switch treatments rapidly, if needed.
People living with MS play an important role in making treatment decisions.
MS is a complex and highly unpredictable disease that affects everyone differently.
Different people have different levels of medical coverage that may cover all or part of the costs associated with their MS treatment.
This can include:
MS is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20-50, the family-building years. While women can experience relief from MS symptoms during pregnancy, approximately 20-40% will have a relapse a few months after giving birth.
If someone living with MS is planning to start a family, it is important that they seek information on how MS treatments could affect pregnancy.
In normal circumstances, most people with MS can travel safely with some advanced research and planning. Be sure to check your local guidance for travel and talk to your doctor before travelling. Your doctor can help you determine whether it is possible to travel safely with your medications and what preparations you might need to make.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
Staying active is beneficial and travelling is a good way to get out and get moving. According to health experts, the biggest threat while travelling is a flare-up of an already existing medical condition. So, before travelling:
When evaluating treatment options, there are choices between different types or forms of medication and different dosing schedules.
Adverse events vary by treatment, and each potential treatment should be discussed with your doctor in depth.
For RRMS and SPMS, with relapses, the three most common ways to administer DMTs are the following:
Pills, also known as oral medications, are a more recent development in relapsing MS treatment. They can be an effective alternative to infusions and injections. If you are afraid of needles, this may be an option to consider with your doctor.
Infusion treatments are administered intravenously (into a vein) through a needle in your arm. They are generally given less frequently than pills or injections and must be administered by a healthcare professional in a hospital, infusion centre, or doctor’s office.
Injectable therapies are one of the most common ways to help treat the symptoms of RRMS and SPMS, with relapses. Your doctor can show you, or your care partner, how to properly use a needle or autoinjector.
The dosing schedule of a medication is another important factor to consider.
Depending on the form of therapy selected, choices may range from:
People living with MS may have physical, social, or emotional concerns. Patient programs and support groups (like those coordinated through the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada [MSSC]) offer a wide variety of resources.
The best strategy for managing your MS is following the treatment plan you and your team have created. Along with healthy eating, regular exercise, rehabilitation, and other complementary therapies, sticking with the disease-modifying medication your doctor has prescribed is an important part of that plan.
DMTs are a class of drugs that influence the underlying disease activity.
DMTs do not:
Sticking with DMTs over long periods of time may be challenging, as you may not be able to feel them working at all; however, they can be important to help slow disability progression.
Your doctor can help you be aware of the role DMTs play in your treatment plan and to watch out for obstacles that can make it hard to stick with them.
Remembering when to take medication
Monitoring symptoms over time
Overcoming medication fatigue
Learning injection techniques
There are many smartphone apps (iPhone and Android) that can help you record your symptoms.
Sometimes a person may feel fine but then later experience an episode of worsening symptoms.
Taking DMTs over long periods of time can be challenging for many reasons. For some people, medication may feel like an unwanted reminder of their disease. MS patients may suffer from medication fatigue, (a decrease in commitment to follow the prescribed plan). It is important these emotions don’t get in the way, as following your plan can help preserve your health and improve your quality of life.
While injections are common when it comes to MS medications, many people are afraid or anxious to self-inject.
Education on injection techniques can help build self-confidence and reduce this fear.
You can get information about injection techniques from qualified health care professionals or through the support programs offered by the manufacturer of your medications.