The goals of treatment for multiple sclerosis are:
- Modify the disease course by reducing the number and severity of relapses (also called exacerbations or flares), reducing accumulation of lesions, and slowing the progression of disability
- Treat relapses on a short-term as-needed basis
- Manage symptoms
Patients are recommended to seek care from a neurologist experienced in treating multiple sclerosis.
Early Treatment. Evidence strongly suggests that the most destructive changes from multiple sclerosis in the brain occur very early on in the disease process -- and may cause considerable damage even before symptoms begin.
Many doctors recommend treatment after a first neurological episode of MS (a clinically isolated syndrome) using disease-modifying drugs. The best current approach is to use specific findings from MRI scans to determine patients at highest risk for progression, making them likely candidates for early treatment with these drugs.
Over a third of patients will progress even with immediate treatment, but without early treatment about 50% of patients will progress to clinically identifiable multiple sclerosis.
Treatment with Disease-Modifying Drugs
Review Date: 06/17/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.