Multiple sclerosis

  • Alternative Names

    MS; Demyelinating disease


    There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis at this time. However, there are therapies that may slow the disease. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and help you maintain a normal quality of life.

    Medications used to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis are taken on a long-term basis, they include:

    • Interferons (Avonex, Betaseron, or Rebif), glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), mitoxantrone (Novantrone), and natalizumab (Tysabri)
    • Fingolimod (Gilenya )
    • Methotrexate, azathioprine (Imuran), intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg) and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) may also be used if the above drugs are not working well

    Steroids may be used to decrease the severity of attacks.

    Medications to control symptoms may include:

    • Medicines to reduce muscle spasms such as Lioresal (Baclofen), tizanidine (Zanaflex), or a benzodiazepine
    • Cholinergic medications to reduce urinary problems
    • Antidepressants for mood or behavior symptoms
    • Amantadine for fatigue

    For more information see:

    • Neurogenic bladder
    • Bowel retraining

    The following may also be helpful for people with MS:

    • Physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and support groups
    • Assistive devices, such as wheelchairs, bed lifts, shower chairs, walkers, and wall bars
    • A planned exercise program early in the course of the disorder
    • A healthy lifestyle, with good nutrition and enough rest and relaxation
    • Avoiding fatigue, stress, temperature extremes, and illness
    • Changes in what you eat or drink if there are swallowing problems
    • Making changes around the home to prevent falls

    Household changes to ensure safety and ease in moving around the home are often needed.

    Support Groups

    For additional information, see multiple sclerosis resources.

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The outcome varies, and is hard to predict. Although the disorder is chronic and incurable, life expectancy can be normal or almost normal. Most people with MS continue to walk and function at work with minimal disability for 20 or more years.

    The following typically have the best outlook:

    • Females
    • People who were young (less than 30 years) when the disease started
    • People with infrequent attacks
    • People with a relapsing-remitting pattern
    • People who have limited disease on imaging studies

    The amount of disability and discomfort depends on:

    • How often you have attacks
    • How severe they are
    • The part of the central nervous system that is affected by each attack

    Most people return to normal or near-normal function between attacks. Slowly, there is greater loss of function with less improvement between attacks. Over time, many require a wheelchair to get around and have a more difficult time transferring out of the wheelchair.

    Those with a support system are often able to remain in their home.

    • Depression
    • Difficulty swallowing
    • Difficulty thinking
    • Less and less ability to care for self
    • Need for indwelling catheter
    • Osteoporosis or thinning of the bones
    • Pressure sores
    • Side effects of medications used to treat the disorder
    • Urinary tract infections

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You develop any symptoms of MS
    • Symptoms get worse, even with treatment
    • The condition deteriorates to the point where home care is no longer possible