Treating Multiple Sclerosis with Infusions
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease affecting the brain and spinal cord. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is considered to be an autoimmune disease. While research into better treatment options is underway, there are many different medications to treat the disease currently available. MS drugs come in both pill and injection form, and many MS patients rely on treatment administered through infusions. At Personalized Hematology-Oncology, we treat MS patients every day at our certified infusion center.
What is MS?
MS is a nervous system disease that damages the protective sheath, or myelin, that covers nerve fibers. This damage causes communication problems by slowing down or blocking messages between the brain and the body, leading to the symptoms of MS.
The symptoms of MS include:
- Vision problems
- Muscle weakness
- Slurred speech
- Trouble with coordination and balance
- Thinking and memory problems
- Sensations such as numbness, prickling, or “pins and needles”
There are four types of MS, including relapsing-remitting, secondary-progressive, primary-progressive and progressive-relapsing.
Multiple sclerosis occurs in women more than men and often begins between the ages of 20 and 40. The disease is usually mild, but some lose the ability to write, speak or walk. As there is no single test for MS, doctors rely on medical history, physical and neurological exam, MRI, and other tests to diagnose it. Medications help to slow down the progression of the disease and treat symptoms.
Infusion treatments for MS
Infusion treatments deliver medication to a patient intravenously with a needle or catheter. There are two types of infusion treatments for MS: disease-modifying therapies and therapies for relapses.
Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) help to slow MS activity and progression. These treatments are a key component of overall MS care, along with managing MS relapses, or exacerbations. While these medications don’t typically make you feel better immediately, they are used to comprehensively treat and slow down the disease progression for the future. Studies have shown that DMTs can reduce the frequency and severity of relapses or clinical attacks, delay advancing disability and lower new inflammation in the central nervous system.
Some disease-modifying therapies, especially older DMTs, are linked to potentially serious adverse reactions, so careful monitoring is required. Newer DMTs have shown better short-term outcomes than older therapies, but there is insufficient data about their long-term effects and reactions.
Infusion therapy is used to deliver DMTs, such as:
- Mitoxantrone (brand name Novantrone)
- Natalizumab (Tysabri)
- Alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)
Therapies for relapses
Most patients with MS experience relapses, attacks, exacerbations or flare-ups of the disease. An MS relapse is defined as new or returning neurological symptoms that have evolved over at least 24 to 48 hours. A relapse involves the worsening or recurrence of existing symptoms or the appearance of new ones. Relapses can last anywhere from a few days to a few months, followed by a complete or partial recovery, called remission. These relapses can interrupt the patient’s ability to function. Severe relapses require treatment to accelerate recovery.
For acute relapses, steroids known as glucocorticoids are prescribed to shorten the severity and duration of the attack. Glucocorticoids are used to reduce inflammation from various conditions, such as allergic reactions and asthma. These steroids are given to MS patients intravenously through a vein in the arm. Steroids such as methylprednisolone and dexamethasone are given by infusion once a day for three to five days. In some cases, the IV steroid is followed by steroid pills in a tapering dose for an additional week or two.
Though these treatments lessen the severity and length of a relapse, they do not appear to affect the long-term progression of the disease.
Finding MS infusion treatment in the Triangle
Personalized Hematology-Oncology of Wake Forest is a certified infusion center serving Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding region. We treat many conditions with intravenous medication including multiple sclerosis. Our facility offers an intimate setting where infusions are administered along with friendly, personalized care from our experienced medical team. To learn more about our practice or to make an appointment, please contact us today.