Since there is no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS), learning to live with the disease and controlling symptoms is important to your well-being. The following treatments can help.
Physical therapy can help maintain muscle strength and tone, dexterity, and walking ability. Physical therapists use exercises and other modalities to help preserve mobility and function.
Occupational therapists may recommend braces or assistive devices, such as walkers, and develop a plan to help you manage activities of daily living.
Speech and swallowing therapy may be useful if you have difficulty with slurred speech and with swallowing foods and liquids. This therapy works to strengthen the oral muscles, and it can also help you to reduce your risk of aspiration pneumonia (when food or drink is accidentally inhaled).
Counseling with a mental health professional can improve your coping strategies for dealing with physical symptoms and emotional stress. Many people with MS experience depression or other psychiatric problems. The unpredictable course of the disease may contribute to family conflicts or relationship issues.
A therapist can work with you to develop new coping skills or stress management techniques. Counselors also can help you deal with losses associated with the disease, such as the inability to work, lifestyle changes, or dependence on others for housekeeping or personal care.
Researchers are studying whether stem cell transplants can be used to treat people with MS. While there are different kinds of transplants, one that has been used for MS involves rebuilding the immune system with the person's own stem cells or cells from a donor. First, chemotherapy and radiation may be used to destroy the immune system. Next, stem cells are injected into the person's vein. These cells travel through the blood to the bone cavities, where they produce healthy cells and platelets. If this process goes well, the person's immune system builds itself back up without destroying the nerve fiber's myelin sheath, which causes the symptoms of MS.
Stem cell studies are happening in many countries. The hope is that this treatment will reduce and possibly reverse symptoms.
Call your doctor if symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop.
Burt RK, Loh Y, Stefosky D, et al. Autologous non-myeloablative haemopoietic stem cell transplantation in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis: a phase I/II study. Lancet Neurology. 2009;8(3):244-253.
Mancardi GL, Sormani MP, Gualandi F, et al. Autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation in multiple sclerosis: a phase II trial. Neurology. 2015;84(10):981-988.
Motl RW, Pilutti LA. The benefits of exercise training in multiple sclerosis. Nat Rev Neurol. 2012;8(9):487-497.
Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS. Updated March 4, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
Nash RA, Hutton GJ, Racke MK, et al. Hig-dose immunosuppressive therapy and autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation for relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (HALT-MS): a 3-year interim report. JAMA Neurology. 2015;72(2):159-169.
NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/multiple_sclerosis/multiple_sclerosis.htm. Updated November 19, 2015. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Northwestern University. Stem cell transplant reverses early-stage multiple sclerosis. Science Daily website. Available at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090129213441.htm. Accessed September 29, 2015.
What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS. Accessed September 13, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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