Disease-modifying therapies are used to change the course of the disease. They are usually prescribed after someone is diagnosed with MS, and they are taken over the long term. As with most medications, it is unknown how exactly disease-modifying therapies work in people with MS. However, they are believed to affect the immune system. While there is no cure for MS, disease-modifying therapies may slow the disease.
Disease-modifying therapies are also used to prevent relapses. However, most people with MS will still experience relapses while on disease-modifying therapy. And many people continue to experience symptoms during remission. Continue to take your disease-modifying medications as prescribed, even during a relapse. If your MS relapses continue, you and your healthcare team may want to discuss your disease-modifying treatment options to find what works best for you.
When relapses happen, healthcare providers may prescribe relapse treatments. Unlike disease-modifying treatments, which are taken over the long term, relapse treatments are taken over the short term—only during a relapse. Treatment of MS relapses focuses on shortening the length of a relapse, speeding up the relapse recovery, and lessening the disability from a relapse.
Symptom management focuses both on symptoms that arise directly from demyelination and loss of axons, as well as those that result from complications and the challenges of living with the disease. To manage symptoms, your healthcare provider may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications. They may also recommend healthy lifestyle changes or rehabilitation.
In all areas of MS treatment, decisions are based on disease progression, personal choice, and other diseases the person has besides MS. Because everyone with MS may experience it differently, your healthcare provider will determine the best treatment plan to meet your individual needs.