Multiple Sclerosis Care: Is There a Cure for Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition affecting the body’s nervous system, and unfortunately, there is currently no cure. However, there are several medicines and treatments available to treat the symptoms and help slow its progression.
In recent years, a considerable amount of research has been carried out into multiple sclerosis care, leading to further advances in the treatment options available. There are now over a dozen licenced treatments aimed at helping people living with relapsing MS, and one for those living with primary progressive MS.
Here, we take a look at some of the treatments available. These aim to address the issue of inflammation which MS causes. Further research is currently underway to look at what more can be done to protect nerves from MS damage.
If you have a loved one or relative living with MS, their treatment will vary depending on their symptoms. Their multiple sclerosis care plan may include treatment for MS relapses, or specific MS symptoms, aimed at reducing the number of relapses they experience. These are known as disease-modifying therapies.
In most cases, a team of healthcare professionals, comprising of a neurologist, a physiotherapist and a speech and language therapist, among others, will help to design the most appropriate care plan. A specialist MS nurse may be appointed as the main point of contact for the patient and will be on hand to offer support and answer questions that you and your loved one will inevitably have.
Treatment for MS relapses
There is a possibility that your loved one could experience a flare-up of MS symptoms due to other illnesses, such as a separate infection. If this happens, they should always be checked by a medical professional. The most common types of treatment for relapse are the following:
- A course of steroid tablets taken at home
- Steroid injections or medicine administered in the hospital for between 3 to 5 days.
Due to the possible side effects of steroids (weight gain, diabetes, weakened bones), such medications are usually only prescribed for a relatively short period. Taking steroids no more often than three times a year can help to reduce the risk of these associated side effects.
It’s worth remembering that while steroids can help to hasten recovery from a relapse, they won’t prevent relapses from happening again, or stop the disease from progressing in the longer-term.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 102-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for over two years.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
Treatment for specific MS symptoms
Living with MS can lead to a wide range of symptoms, and they will require individual treatment. Some of the most common symptoms include:
The management of fatigue can be performed non-medically, by adopting a lifestyle which includes exercise, healthy sleeping patterns and employing energy-saving techniques. Avoiding medicines such as some painkillers which can increase fatigue may also be advisable.
Most MS-related visual problems clear up by themselves without treatment within a few weeks. However, medication is available for more severe cases, and if your loved one experiences double-vision, it may be necessary to seek help from a dedicated eye specialist.
Stiffness and muscle spasms
Physiotherapy is a standard treatment to help to improve and prevent muscle spasms and stiffness. Encouraging physical activity - even gentle stretching exercises - can also help with muscle problems.
Severe muscle spasms may require muscle-relaxing medication. However, this type of treatment is commonly associated with side effects, so a specialist nurse or GP is required to advise the most suitable treatment.
Muscle spasms and stiffness can lead to more significant mobility issues. They can occur alongside other common MS symptoms such as weakness, dizziness or problems with balance. Again, a dedicated exercise programme may help to combat these issues.
You may feel that your loved one requires the support of a walking stick or wheelchair to help them move around easily and safely. There may also be a need for home adaptations, such as the installation of handrails and stairlifts to give them added support.
You may also want to consider additional elderly care. Whether this is home care or live-in care, there are a variety of private care options available to help your loved one live their life to the fullest. There are also specialised care options if your loved one requires extra support, such as dementia care.
Nerve and musculoskeletal pain
MS causes nerve damage as well as stress to the body’s muscles and joints. A prescription of painkillers combined with light exercise may help to ease these symptoms.
Memory and emotional challenges
An appointment with a clinical psychologist is recommended for anyone experiencing problems with their ability to think clearly, remember details, or has unexplained emotional outbursts. Antidepressant medication or other therapy can help with managing these issues.
Bowel and bladder issues
A variety of medicines are available to treat issues relating to the bladder and bowel. Speak with your loved one’s GP about the most suitable options.
Difficulties with speech and swallowing
Working with a speech and language therapist may assist in overcoming difficulties with speaking and swallowing. In more severe cases, a diet consisting of easy-to-swallow foods may be advised. In rarer situations, feeding via a tube inserted into the stomach may be necessary.
Although there is currently no cure for MS, disease-modifying therapies can help to reduce the number and severity of relapses by limiting the amount of nerve damage caused. They aren’t suitable for everyone, but it is worth talking to a medical professional about the possible treatments which may best suit your loved one’s needs.
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