According to a story from philly.com, a recently released set of guidelines is placing new emphasis in the need for patients not to delay treatment during the early stages of multiple sclerosis. Like in many other diseases, the earlier a patient begins treatment, the better off the outcomes for that patient. Patients that wait or otherwise experience delays in treatment will frequently suffer the consequences when their disease becomes more severe and resistant to treatment. Many rare diseases are long term, “progressive” diseases, which means that they get worse over time.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) certainly falls into the category of a long term, chronic disease that can worsen over time. Multiple sclerosis often occurs in two different forms. One in which symptoms are experienced in relapsing and remitting episodes, and another in which the symptoms are always present to some degree and become more severe and debilitating over time. Multiple sclerosis is a disease characterized by damage to the myelin sheath, an insulating, protective covering that ensures that neurons are able to communicate safely and efficiently. When these coverings are damaged, it is more difficult for neurons to communicate. Patients may experience a range of varying symptoms, such as sensation changes, muscle weakness, blindness in one eye or double vision, problems speaking and swallowing, poor coordination, mood problems, and muscle spasms. To learn more about multiple sclerosis, click here.
The new guidelines emphasize the fact that now, patients with MS now have several different treatment approaches that have the potential to slow down or halt the progression of the disease. In addition, if patients begin to experience severe symptoms even while taking a medication, the patients should switch to another drug and find one that is more effective. The new rules also caution patients about the risk of halting the use of medication; there is little data about the changes in outcomes that could occur as the result of this decision.
The guidelines were first released in the scientific journal Neurology on April 23rd. A final piece of advice from the guidelines: patients should take the time necessary to get thoroughly educated on the treatment options for MS, and understand the potential benefits and side effects of each. Hopefully, these new guidelines will improve outcomes for patients in the future.