At present there is no cure for MS, but management of the disease
includes various pharmacological strategies such as drug treatments to
speed up the clinical improvement from relapses, medications that reduce
the risk of further relapses (commonly known as disease modifying
therapies) and therapies that alleviate and improve various symptoms. In
addition to these drugs, successful management of MS also includes a
healthy diet, exercise and rehabilitation.
Acute relapses are
commonly treated with steroids, which can be given intravenously or
orally for only a few days. These are generally well tolerated and
improve symptoms, but do not change the risk of future relapses.
Disease modifying drugs can instead reduce the frequency
and severity of relapses. Whether any of these drugs slow down the rate
of disability in the long term is not yet clear and is a current focus
of research. Early stage clinical trials focus on safety of new
compounds, while late stage trials focus on efficacy and identifying
patient populations that may benefit most from particular treatments.
Several new oral drugs are currently being tested in late stage clinical
trials and one of them has become recently available. As more genomic
data becomes available, individual targeting of therapies will become an
exciting research area for the future.
MS is associated with a range of symptoms making their management
important but challenging. A multidisciplinary approach is vital to
improving quality of life and management strategies can involve a
combination of drug treatments and rehabilitation. While some symptoms
such as bladder issues respond well to current medications, improving
treatments in more difficult areas such as fatigue and cognition are
research challenges for the future.
Complementary and alternative therapies are treatments that
generally fall outside the realm of conventional medicines. Current
areas of MS research focus on the efficacy of a diverse range of
treatments from cannabis to vitamin supplements and yoga to acupuncture.
Studies suggest that these therapies are used by a large proportion of
people with MS and often used alongside conventional medication.