What Are the Goals of Treating MS?

Learn the four objectives for treating MS, and what you can do to meet them.

MS patient taking medication

When you’re living with multiple sclerosis (MS), day-to-day life can feel like a challenge. The symptoms of MS, such as fatigue and difficulty walking, may make it tough to do ordinary things. Over time, the condition can also be tied to emotional issues like depression and anxiety.

However, keeping the goals of treatment in mind can help you work with your healthcare provider and better manage MS. Knowing and following these objectives can also help you feel more confident as you navigate the ups and downs of this chronic condition.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, the four goals of MS treatment are:

Reducing MS relapses and delaying progression

The first goal is the most basic: to lessen the impact of MS. A relapse, also known as a flare-up, can range from mild to severe, and may last anywhere from a few days to several months. Your existing symptoms may temporarily get worse, or you may experience new symptoms. Flare-ups occur due to inflammation in the central nervous system.

Your healthcare provider might prescribe treatment that can help lessen the number of flare-ups you experience and slow down the overall progression of MS. The type of treatment prescribed will depend on a number of factors, including the type of MS that you have—progressive or relapsing. Treatment options include disease-modifying therapies, which may be administered as injectables, infusion treatments, and oral medications.

To help meet this goal, be sure to stick to the treatment your healthcare provider prescribes. It can be tempting to stop when you’re in remission, but in order to work effectively, treatment needs to be taken consistently over time.

Treating MS relapses

The second goal is to treat MS relapses when they do occur. If your symptoms are mild, such as numbness or fatigue that doesn’t overly affect you, they may not require any treatment. But if your relapse is affecting your ability to function, check in with your healthcare provider. There are several types of treatment available,

including steroid infusions, oral steroids, plasma exchange, and gel injection.

To stick to this goal, don’t try to power through a flare-up that is affecting your mobility or safety. Although steroids aren’t shown to help slow the progression of MS, they can be very effective in treating relapses.

Treating MS symptoms

MS symptoms can run the gamut—from fatigue, numbness, and weakness, to vision problems, bladder issues, and trouble concentrating. They can also include walking issues, pain, mood swings, and cognition problems.

Because MS has a variety of symptoms, treating these often requires a comprehensive approach, including medications and rehabilitation. Your healthcare provider can manage your medications. Rehabilitation may include working with a physical therapist, occupational therapist, a neuropsychologist (for cognitive issues), or a speech-language pathologist.

You can help meet this goal by openly sharing all your symptoms with your healthcare provider, sticking to your treatment plan, and undergoing any rehab needed.

Maintaining quality of life

The fourth major goal of MS treatment is for you to be able to do the things you need and want to for a fulfilling life. “Quality of life” refers not just to your MS symptoms, but your energy level, mood, and ability to function in everyday life, such as at your job and with your family. What constitutes a good life can look different for everyone, just as each person with MS will experience different symptoms and progression.

A 2019 study published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders found that depression and emotional factors are some of the most important in determining quality of life with MS. If you are struggling with emotions, don’t be afraid to tell your healthcare provider. Medications and therapy can be highly effective in treating depression and anxiety.

Staying committed to your treatment and working regularly with your healthcare provider are key to keeping up a good quality of life. Also, think about what is most meaningful to you— whether it’s travel, a hobby, or family—and talk to your healthcare provider about how you can achieve your goals.

You may need to do things a little differently, but you can still pursue your passions while living with MS.

Article sources open article sources

National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "MS Symptoms."
Michigan Medicine. "Multiple Sclerosis: Mental and Emotional Problems."
Rosa E. Boeschoten, Annemarie M.J. Braamse, et al. "Prevalence of depression and anxiety in Multiple Sclerosis: A systematic review and meta-analysis." Journal of the Neurological Sciences, 2017. Vol. 372.
Amy Perrin Ross. "Management of Multiple Sclerosis." Economic Outcomes in Multiple Sclerosis, 2013. Vol. 19, Issue 16 Suppl.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Managing Relapses.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Types of MS."
Mayo Clinic. "Multiple Sclerosis."
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Adherence."
Multiple Sclerosis Association of America. "Relapse Treatments."
Cleveland Clinic. "Identifying and Managing Cognitive Disorders in Multiple Sclerosis."
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. "Rehabilitation."
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL)."
Yavor Yalachkov, Dilara Soydas, et al. "Determinants of quality of life in relapsing-remitting and progressive multiple sclerosis." Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders, 2019. Vol. 30.
Pim Cuijpers, Argyris Stringaris and Miranda Wolpert. "Treatment outcomes for depression: challenges and opportunities." The Lancet Psychiatry, 2020. Vol. 7, No. 11.
Borwin Bandelow, Sophie Michaelis and Dirk Wedekind. "Treatment of anxiety disorders." Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, 2017. Vol. 19, No. 2.

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