When to start an MS treatment

When to start an MS treatment

Multiple sclerosis can be active even if you’re feeling well, and this damage can build up. Research suggests that treating soon after your diagnosis can help to prevent permanent damage to your central nervous system (CNS) and slow down the development of disability. But remember to talk with your doctor or MS nurse about your options and what might be the best one for you. 

Quick facts about treatment

There are number of things you’ll be thinking about when it comes to treatment. Here are some reasons why it can be best to start treatment soon after you are diagnosed:

  • Damage to the brain can start early on in MS, before you start experiencing symptoms
  • Starting treatment early can delay the development of disability 

Remember to talk to your doctor or MS nurse if you have any concerns about treatment. 

Why do early changes in my brain matter?

MS-related damage to the central nervous system starts early on in the disease and continues to build up, sometimes without you being aware. These early changes, including brain cell damage, brain atrophy (i.e. shrinkage) and the development of lesions, are important because they have been linked to:

  • Long-term disability
  • Sexual problems (such as loss of sex drive)
  • Limitations due to poorer physical health, for example difficulties walking, you can find more here
  • Problems with mental health, such as depression and anxiety 
What can earlier MS treatment do to help me?

Just like with any disease, the sooner you know about it, the sooner you can start doing something about it. And for people living with relapsing types of multiple sclerosis, research shows that earlier treatment with a disease modifying therapy (DMT) can give better outcomes than starting it later.  If treatment with a DMT is started early after diagnosis, it can limit the damage caused early on in MS, reduce relapses, and help to delay disability and its impact on your long-term physical, emotional and mental health. 

This is also an important consideration for people who’ve had just one flare up of MS symptoms. In these cases a DMT may increase the time to another relapse as well as limit damage and rate of brain atrophy. Based on these reasons, you may want to discuss starting treatment with a DMT early on in your disease with your doctor or MS nurse, even if you’re feeling well. 

It’s not just about treating early, even if you’ve been living with multiple sclerosis for some time, you may benefit from treatment with a DMT. So, as long as you’re still experiencing relapses, treatment with a DMT may stop or delay further damage. 

And remember, no matter how long you’ve been living with relapsing MS, it’s important to talk with your doctor or MS nurse about the best time for you to start treatment with a DMT.

Useful links
  • Giovanni G et al. 2017. Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis. Available at: www.msbrainhealth.org/report. Last accessed: October 2017.