Your questions about early treatment

We've put together some questions and answers that we hope will be useful to help you make sure you get the right treatment at the right time. Click on the questions in the list below to find the answer.

We know we can't cover everything, so if you have a new question or just want to speak to someone, please call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

Questions

How early is early treatment?

Your neurologist should begin talking about what kind of treatment is right for you as soon as you’re diagnosed. If you decide to start treatment, it should be offered as close to diagnosis as possible. This view is supported by the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) in their recently updated MS prescribing guidelines. The discussion about your treatment should then carry on at your six week follow up appointment and in the six month period after this. During this time you and your neurologist should make a treatment plan and decide what your treatment should look like.

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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Who qualifies to be treated early?

If you have a relapsing form of MS, you could qualify for treatment. There are 11 DMTs licensed for MS so speak to your neurologist or MS nurse about which one’s right for you.

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What are the benefits of early treatment?

Even when you’re not having a relapse MS may carry on attacking your body, leading to nerve damage that can’t be put right. Taking DMTs cannot undo this damage to nerves, but they help prevent it and lower the number of relapses you have too. This means that the earlier you start treatment, the better.

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What does this mean for someone with MS now?

We know about the benefits of treatment but there are some other important developments in treatment and care for people with relapsing forms of MS. New best practice guidelines for MS, from NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), recommend that people with MS have at least one review of their condition each year and have one person making sure a team of people with different skills are working together to provide your care and treatment.

The Association of British Neurologists (ABN) recently updated their guidance on how MS should be treated. They recommend:

  • treatment starting as close to diagnosis as possible
  • making a joint decision on which treatment to use
  • using MRI as part of an ongoing review

If you have a relapsing form of MS, you may wish to contact your neurologist or nurse to make sure you’re receiving the best treatment and support package that you can get. This is true whether or not you’re already on treatment or in regular contact with your MS team.

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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I have just been diagnosed and my neurologist didn’t mention treatment. What should I do?

You have a right to ask for an appointment to speak to your neurologist about your options. Both NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) and the Association of British Neurologists (ABN) recommend that information about treatment options is given to you at diagnosis and in the weeks and months that follow.

You can prepare for the appointment by looking at our information on the treatments available and the questions you might want to ask.

If you aren’t happy with your care you can always ask for a second opinion. The NHS has guidance on how to do this which can be found here.

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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What should my next steps be? How do I choose which treatment to take?

It’s important to know about all the treatments open to you. Information on DMTs should be given to you by health care professionals when you are diagnosed. Which treatment you choose will be a joint decision between you and your neurologist.

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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What happens if you don’t have treatment early? I’ve had MS for a number of years and haven’t had treatment.

DMTs are now known to help prevent the damage to nerves that builds up over time in relapsing remitting MS. DMTs can’t undo any damage to nerves that has already happened, which is why the earlier you start treatment, the better. But this doesn’t mean that starting a treatment later will not have any benefits. The most important thing is to speak to your MS nurse or neurologist about what your options are.

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I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting MS two years ago but still haven’t had any treatment, is it too late to get a DMT?

No. The evidence shows that starting treatment can slow down how your MS progresses, helping to prevent the damage to nerves that builds up over time. DMTs can’t undo any damage to nerves that has already happened, which is why the earlier you start treatment, the better. Starting a treatment later can still have benefits.

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What treatments are there for relapsing MS?

There are now 11 disease modifying therapies (DMTs) for relapsing MS. How effective they are, their side effects and how you take them are all different. The more effective treatments tend to have more serious side effects. DMTs can reduce the number of relapses you may have and reduce the damage MS causes and that builds up (accumulates) over time. This means that taking a DMT can delay the damage to your body getting worse compared to if you don’t take a treatment. This is true even if you have not been having relapses. Information on DMTs should be given to you by health care professionals when you are diagnosed. You can also get information from the MS Society at www.mssociety.org.uk

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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What treatments are there for progressive MS?

Right now there are no DMTs for non-relapsing progressive MS that can slow or stop it getting worse, but research is being done to find them. You can read about current research into progressive MS on our research pages. If you can’t treat your MS with DMTs, there are treatments, self-management techniques and complementary therapies you can try to help manage your symptoms.

Was this answer helpful? You can also call the MS Helpline on for free on 0808 800 8000 or send us an email to Helpline@mssociety.org.uk

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