How is MS diagnosed?
There’s no test to definitively diagnose MS. But your doctor will take a full history, including asking about previous symptoms, and perform a neurologic exam. They would likely order an MRI to look for damage to the central nervous system, or do a spinal tap to look for evidence in a person’s cerebrospinal fluid.
Who is most at-risk for MS?
People with certain genetic makeups are more predisposed to MS, and infections can trigger the change in the immune system that causes MS. Environmental factors can also play a role. Low vitamin D may increase the risk of MS, and smoking may worsen the disease progression. But we don’t know why it’s triggered in some people and not others. It’s most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40, but can be diagnosed anywhere between the ages of 10 and 70. It is three times more common in women than in men.
Can MS be cured?
Unfortunately there is no cure for MS. But there are numerous medications and rehabilitation options to help manage the disease. And patients can maintain their own wellness through exercise, avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy diet. Our job as health care practitioners is to calm down the immune system so patients don’t have a relapse, and the patient’s job is to stay actively involved in their treatment by taking their medications and making the necessary lifestyle changes. This is a lifelong disease that will require lifelong treatment.
What are the treatment options?
Treatment plans are often a combination of medications tailored to the individual patient. More than 20 medications exist to treat this disease. Steroids are often used to reduce inflammation after an attack, while other medications, known as disease modifying therapies, are used to reduce the number of attacks and slow the disease progression. Balance or speech problems, for example, can be managed through physical therapy, speech therapy, and exercise. Occupational therapy can assist with cognitive issues and with activities of daily living, such as walking, dressing, and bathing. Everyone with MS should be treated early and they should stick to their treatment plan because there is good data to show people who adhere to their treatments have a lower likelihood of experiencing a relapse.