Early Treatment Can Slow Multiple Sclerosis Progression - dummies

Early Treatment Can Slow Multiple Sclerosis Progression

By Rosalind Kalb, Barbara Giesser, Kathleen Costello

Managing multiple sclerosis (MS) is a little like managing an unruly toddler — sometimes figuring out who’s winning is difficult, but it’s up to you to do everything you can to maintain control. Even before the disease has caused any significant symptoms or problems, it’s having a field day in your central nervous system (CNS).

Studies with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) have shown that a significant amount of damage occurs in the CNS very early on. The damage occurs in both the white matter in the brain and spinal cord (the myelin coating around the nerve fibers as well as the nerve fibers [axons] themselves) and in the gray matter (the tissue beneath the white matter that contains the nerve cell bodies).

In fact, five to ten times more disease activity is detectable by MRI than you can feel or your doctor can detect. And this sneaky disease activity may eventually translate into clinical symptoms and disability.

Although the myelin in the CNS has some ability to repair itself, the damage to the nerve fibers — referred to as axonal loss — appears to be more permanent. This nerve fiber damage is a likely cause of the progressive disability that occurs in MS.

What all this means for you is that even though there are no guarantees with this unpredictable disease, the earlier you begin treatment with one of the disease-modifying therapies, the better shot you have at slowing disease activity and reducing future disability.