Choosing a Relapsing MS Treatment That Meets Your Goals
By: Nurse Catherine
Not too long ago, there weren’t any FDA-approved treatments for relapsing multiple sclerosis. Thankfully, that’s changed! Today there are more than a dozen treatment options to choose from. Whether you’re starting your very first treatment or ready for a change, there are many things to consider when choosing the option that is right for you.
Here are some general questions to ask your self:
How’s your day-to-day schedule? Routine and predictable, or hectic and unpredictable?
Do you have any other health conditions?
Do you have a preferred method of administration?
Do you travel a lot for work or pleasure?
Are you hoping to start or expand your family?
These are all important questions you and your healthcare provider need to discuss when you’re trying to figure out which relapsing MS treatment is best for you. If you are already on a treatment and have been on it for some time, I encourage you to think about what’s most important to you if you’re considering a switch.
No matter how big or small, everyone has goals they want to achieve. What personal goals are you hoping to achieve in the next few years? Running or walking a 5K? Earning a college degree? Attending a friend’s wedding? When you’re picking a relapsing MS treatment, keep your goals in mind, so you and your healthcare provider can figure out the best course of action for you. Let your neurologist know about your future plans, so he or she can provide you with the right guidance and help you find the right treatment.
MS Treatment Goals
It’s good to set specific MS treatment goals—and it’s good to acknowledge when you reach them. For example, maybe your goal is to reduce the number of relapses or to slow your disability progression. Now that’s something to celebrate!
Is your treatment goal to have no new lesions on your next MRI? Is it to experience fewer relapses? Are you working to slow the disability progression of relapsing MS? Maybe your goal is to be able to stick to the dosing schedule of an MS medication. Ask yourself what sort of treatment you’d be comfortable with and what treatment aligns with your goals and be sure to communicate that to your healthcare team.
MS Treatment Side Effects
Side effects are also a consideration when you’re looking at MS treatment options, because all medications have possible side effects. It’s important to discuss all of the risks and benefits of your treatment options with your healthcare provider. Knowing what side effects to look out for can help you and your healthcare team stay on top of any reactions you may have and help treat them. Always be honest with your healthcare team about what side effects you’re experiencing or what side effects you are afraid of experiencing, because that plays a critical role in deciding what treatments may be right for you.
Do you have another health condition that also requires you to take medication? Make sure your neurologist is aware of all your prescriptions, over-the-counter medicines, and even any vitamins that you take. Sometimes certain medicines just don’t play nice together. Did you know that even something as innocent as antacids can affect how well certain medications work?1 I’ve found it’s helpful to bring a list of all the medicines you’re taking to each appointment, just to make sure you’re not forgetting anything.
Does your work schedule make it difficult to get to your healthcare team’s office for regular appointments? Do you travel for work often? Well, depending on your type of work and travel schedule, some medications may be more difficult for you to take as prescribed. For example, if your job requires you to be away for weeks at a time, staying compliant with certain treatments may be a challenge. This is especially true for medicines that need to be stored at a cold temperature or that are fragile and tough to carry in a suitcase. It’s essential that you take your medicine as it’s prescribed in order for it to work in the way that it should, so you definitely want to choose a dosing schedule you can stick to.
So, you’re ready to start a family. How exciting! Of course, you want everything to be just right. The good news is having relapsing MS alone will not prevent you (or your partner) from starting to plan your family. However, before you (or your partner) start planning to become pregnant, you will want to discuss with your healthcare team to find out the steps you will need to take beforehand. Also consider if you already have young kids at home, scheduling appointments or remembering to take your medicine may be challenging. Always bring these concerns to your healthcare team’s attention, so they can help decide what treatment would be the best fit for you based on your family needs.
Making the Decision Together
Did you know patients who collaborate with their healthcare teams on treatment decisions are more likely to stick with the treatment that they’ve chosen together?2 Figure out your lifestyle needs, personal goals, and treatment goals, so that you and your neurologist can make decisions together. Work together, and go find the right treatment for you!
- You have options when it comes to relapsing MS treatments. Learn about them and work with your neurologist to determine what’s best for you.
- When choosing a treatment, consider your career, family, and other aspects of your life to find the best fit.
- Your personal goals and your treatment goals are important. Consider both when picking a medication.
References: 1. Council on Family Health. Drug interactions: what you should know. https://www.fda.gov/downloads/Drugs/ResourcesForYou/UCM163355.pdf. Accessed May 18, 2018. 2. Tintore M, Alexander M, Costello K, et al. The state of multiple sclerosis: current insight into the patient/health care provider relationship, treatment challenges, and satisfaction. Patient Prefer Adherence. 2017;11:33-45.