Treatment

 

Note: Due to the fact there is a very limited Neurological service available in Taranaki resulting in very long waiting times to see the visiting Neurologist, it may be appropriate to ask your GP for a private referral to a Neurologist outside Taranaki (Auckland, Waikato. Palmerston North) – unfortunately there is a cost associated with this which will have to be met by the patient.

Treatments for MS are available. Some of these are prescribed by a Neurologist after a thorough examination, and may be subject to strict eligibility criteria. Other types of treatments may be prescribed by a GP. Your Neurologist can explain the types of treatments that would be the most suitable for you.

Disease modifying drugs are treatments for MS that target the disease process by shortening MS relapses. Other medications are aimed at reducing symptoms, for example steroids or muscle relaxants. Further treatments under development are hoped to repair damage to the central nervous system caused by MS.

While not generally accepted as treatments for MS, a range of complementary and alternative therapies are commonly used by people with this condition to improve or maintain their general health and well being.

Steroids

In attacks of MS symptoms, damage to myelin and nerves is caused by an inflammatory response within the immune system. Reducing this inflammation with anti-inflammatory medication is thought to help reduce the length and severity of the symptoms.

Steroids, or corticosteroids, are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs that can be given to people who are experiencing MS symptoms caused by inflammation, such as optic neuritis or muscle weakness. This type of treatment may involve high doses of steroids over a period of up to 14 days, and can be administered in pill or intravenous form.

Treatment with steroids needs to be reduced gradually over a period of time and should not be stopped suddenly. Steroids can have side-effects, such as appetite changes or mood swings. However, for most people the potential benefit of reducing and shortening their MS attacks outweighs these generally mild side-effects.

Disease Modifying Drugs

Disease modifying drugs can affect the course of MS by delaying or reducing the severity of relapses. Although they are not a cure, scientific evidence from clinical trials suggests that continued treatment with these medications can slow the progression of disability in the long term.

There are three types of MS disease modifying drugs that are licensed and subsidised for treatment in New Zealand: Avonex (beta interferon-1-alpha), Betaferon (beta interferon-1-beta) and Copaxone (glatiramer acetate).

All of these treatments are prescribed by a Neurologist after careful consideration of individual circumstances and the eligibility criteria for treatment. Your Neurologist will be able to discuss with you the potential benefits and side effects of these treatments.

Complementary and Alternative Therapies

Many people with MS take an active interest in managing their health and incorporate the use of complementary or alternative therapies into their lifestyle. Complementary and alternative therapies consider the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of health, perhaps giving individuals a greater sense of personal control over their well being.

There is some evidence that complementary and alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, aromatherapy, t’ai chi, yoga, fish oils, and vitamin and mineral supplements may be helpful for people with MS in terms of their general well-being. However, there is often insufficient high-quality scientific evidence to support the benefits of such therapies in reducing or slowing the disease process in people with MS.

You should not feel reluctant to discuss with your GP or Neurologist the use of complementary and alternative therapies. In fact, it is recommended that you let your doctors know about any other treatments or supplements you are taking, or intend to take, especially if you are currently prescribed any medication.

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