There are numerous medication options for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. Risks of side effects should be part of the discussion you have with your doctor about which drug is appropriate for you.
Twelve disease-modifying medications are FDA-approved to treat relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS). Specifically, these drugs help prevent relapses and slow progression of the disease.
The newest disease-modifying medications are called “immunomodulators” because they affect the functioning of your immune system.
But all drugs can have adverse side effects, and those associated with MS medications range from mild (such as flu-like symptoms or irritation at an injection site) to serious (such as progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy [PML], a viral disease in the brain).
One of the challenges of MS treatment is balancing risk and benefit, says Dr. Green. Stronger medications might be more effective at slowing progression of the disease, but they may also be associated with more risks.
Discussing Medication Side Effects With Your Doctor
“A doctor has to have a frank and open discussion to find out what is tolerable for patients,” says Green. “Some side effects go away as the body gets used to MS medications, but others, such as irritation where the injection takes place, do not.”
Because people experience side effects differently, each individual has to decide which side effects he or she can live with, he adds.
In some cases, what are thought to be drug side effects may actually be MS symptoms. Fatigue and headache, for example, may be either.
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