There is currently no cure for MS, but that is not to say that it cannot be treated. The current objectives of MS therapy are generally stated to be to:
- reduce the number and severity of relapses;
- reduce the number and volume of lesions;
- delay the progression of disability; and, consequently
- preserve the patient's quality of life.
Measured against these objectives, modern therapies have had considerable success.
There are two main types of IFN beta: IFN beta-1a and IFN beta-1b. IFN beta-1a is available in various strengths and posologies, using two different routes of administration.
There are two major groups of drug that are used to treat MS.
1. The first group aims to control and alleviate the wide range of physical and psychological symptoms that are caused by the disease. Although these drugs reduce the severity of symptoms, they have no effect on the natural course of the disease, which continues to progress unabated. Read more about Symptomatic treatment
2. The second group, however, called Disease Modifying Drugs (DMDs), aims to alter the course of the disease itself, reducing the underlying inflammation and the degree of damage caused by the destruction of myelin and axons. Read more about Immunomodulatory therapy and Immunosuppressant therapy
In clinical practice, the two types of treatment tend to be used in tandem, and often in conjunction with a programme of physical and psychological therapy.
MS is a complex chronic disease and its management requires a multidisciplinary approach involving not only a neurologist, but also a physiotherapist, psychologist, social worker, rehabilitation specialist and nurses. Family members also play an important role in providing support to patients with MS.
Although not curative, the introduction of DMDs represents a major milestone in the management of MS. They are the first agents that have been shown to positively alter the course of MS, in contrast to symptomatic therapy.
1. Dhib-Jalbet S, McFarlin DE. Immunology of multiple sclerosis. Ann Allergy 1990; 64: 433-44.