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What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is an inflammatory disease in which the protective layer around the nerves of the brain and spinal cord, known as myelin, becomes damaged and causes series of unpleasant and often disabling symptoms. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder in which a person’s own immune system confuses the myelin with a foreign substance and attacks it to do the damage. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may vary depending on the region of the brain that is most affected. Almost any kind of neurological symptoms are possible and they progress with the disease to the point of physical and cognitive disability.

Treatment of Multiple sclerosis

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. The treatment of this disease concentrates on attempts to restore a function of affected nerves and prevent disability. Most of the medications used to treat this serious condition shows severe side effects. It is not unusual for patients to seek for alternative methods in order to get the relief from symptoms. The most common alternative treatments are special dietary regimens, herbal medicine, hyperbaric oxygenation and self-infection with hookworm. Medical cannabis is another commonly used herbal medicine. Cannabis is used for treatment of spasticity in multiple sclerosis and it may provide neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory benefits in this disease.

Pharmacological treatment of multiple sclerosis

The main drug therapy for multiple sclerosis includes four drugs: Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone and Rebif. Medications are having a strong impact on patient’s immune system. The medicines are able to lessen T-cells proliferation or hold back specific T-cell proliferation. These are Interferon beta-1a drugs, used to treat but not able to cure multiple sclerosis. Studies reveal that patients who start early on Interferon may beneficially alter the natural course of the disease. Side-effects associated with these medications are not severe. Approximately 75% of patients taking this treatment usually complain about flu-like symptoms. These symptoms are relatively easily suppressed with non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Mitoxanrone (Novantrone) is an anthracenedione antineoplastic agent, primarily used to treat cancers, acute myeloid leukemia and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Due to its immunosuppressive attributes, it is also used to treat multiple sclerosis. A small number of patients, 2 or 3% of them, may complain about side effects that involve cardiomyopathy or heart failure. These side effects occur as a result of decreased level of white blood cells and toxicity in the heart.

Different corticosteroids are also used in treatment. These are steroid hormones produced in the adrenal cortex. Corticosteroids are potent anti-inflammatory drugs, able to manage wide range of physiologic activities like immune response, stress response, behavior, etc. Anti-inflammatory agents in corticosteroids may restore the nerve function in multiple sclerosis. However, these hormonal medications are associated with severe side effects and must be used under the strict supervision of a health care provider.

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