Getting treatment for MS

Anneka and Tomas

You have the right to ask about treatment for your MS. This is true no matter what kind of MS you have - or how long you’ve had it.

Some treatments help with the symptoms of MS, while others control MS itself. With these treatments you can get fewer and less serious relapses, and disability progression may slow down.

Who do I ask about treating my MS?

It’s best that you speak to an MS specialist, such as a neurologist who has many patients with MS. An MS nurse can also talk about treatments in general. But only an MS specialist can give you advice on treating your MS and prescribe drugs for you.

To see your specialist you don’t have to wait for your next appointment to come round. You can ask to see them before then. You might be able to book your appointment yourself. If not, ask your GP or MS nurse to book one for you.

If you don’t already have an MS specialist, ask your GP to refer you to one.

When should I ask about treatment?

Official guidelines say everyone with MS should see a specialist at least once a year. This is true no matter what kind of MS you have and whether you’re already on treatment or not. This is a chance to talk about how your MS might be treated.

If you haven’t seen a specialist for quite a long time you have the right to ask for an appointment. It’s never too late to think about treatment.

If you’ve just found out you have relapsing MS, your specialist should talk to you about treatment within six weeks of your diagnosis. They will explain why it’s a good idea to start treatment as soon as possible.

>> If you’re having problems getting treatment, check out our access to medicines guides.

I have relapsing MS. What are my options?

If you have relapses with your MS, over a dozen drugs can now slow down this sort of MS and reduce relapses. These are called disease modifying therapies (DMTs). Bring these up with your specialist if they haven't already.

DMTs won’t cure MS but they can slow it down and mean you get fewer relapses. They range from less hard hitting drugs with fewer side effects to stronger ones with more serious side effects.

There are a wide range of drugs and other therapies that can help with specific MS symptoms. And steroids can help you get over a relapse sooner. Talk to your specialist, MS nurse or GP about these.

I’ve got relapsing MS but I don’t think drugs aren’t working.

There are a number of very effective DMTs for relapsing MS.

If you don’t feel the drug you’re taking is controlling your relapses well enough, talk over other possible treatments with your neurologist or MS nurse. This might include the stem cell therapy HSCT. In the UK this is only an option if two DMTs haven’t worked for you.

My MS is progressive. Is there a treatment for me?

There are lots of treatments, therapies, lifestyle changes and devices that help with the symptoms or disability caused by progressive MS. Ask your GP, MS nurse or neurologist for help.

If your MS is progressive then HSCT isn’t likely to help you. But we hope that a new drug for primary progressive MS, called ocrelizumab, will be available in 2018.

Only people with certain types of progressive MS might get this drug. Your specialist will be able to talk to you about whether it could help you.

Researchers are working on lots of treatments for progressive MS.

>> Find out more about MS treatments in the pipeline.

I’m not happy with what my specialist says.

Maybe you don’t agree with what your specialist says about treating your MS. Or perhaps you’re unhappy with a treatment you’re getting.

You can ask for a second opinion from another MS specialist. You’ll usually need to ask your GP to write a new referral for you. If this is at another hospital it could mean travelling further and your treatment could start later. Talk this through with your specialist to see what this delay might mean for you.

>> Find out more about getting a second opinion from NHS choices.

Picture: Tomas, who has relapsing MS, with his MS nurse Anneka.

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