Disease modifying therapies (DMTs) may play an important role in treating your multiple sclerosis (MS). DMTs do not treat your symptoms. Instead, they aim to work at the root of MS disease activity by reducing inflammation and brain lesions, slowing disability, and cutting relapses. DMTs are available as pills, injections, or infusions.
Your doctor will measure whether the DMT is working in 3 ways:
Lesions on the brain are evidence of nerve cell damage. They can be monitored by regular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Lesions may correspond with particular symptoms.
New lesions may develop without any symptoms appearing and without an increase in relapse. Even though you cannot feel it, this means the disease may be progressing. That’s why it’s so important to schedule regular doctor appointments and MRI exams.
DMTs work to reduce the number of new or changing lesions, but they do not treat the symptoms of MS.
Being on the right DMT may prolong your body’s physical abilities by slowing disability progression. Your doctor may use a scale such as the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) to track your physical abilities over time. The scale ranges from 0 to 10, and measures ability as related to motion.
Take DMTs exactly as prescribed by your doctor. Talk to your healthcare provider about maintaining a baseline.
A relapse is when a new symptom not brought on by fever, or infection temporarily appears, or when a symptom you already have gets worse for a period of time.
If you're having a relapse, talk to your healthcare team right away. Symptoms typically last at least 24 hours and may appear at least 30 days after your last relapse.
DMTs are an important consideration of living with MS. Keep in mind, everyone reacts to DMTs differently, so you may try several treatment options before finding one that’s right for you. Regardless of the DMT you and your doctor ultimately choose for you, it’s important to start treating your MS as early as possible.
Be sure to discuss DMTs with your doctor, as he or she is your greatest resource when it comes to your MS. It’s important to talk about the benefits and risks of treatment with your doctor and understand how DMTs may fit into your treatment plan.
*The link between brain lesions and the progression of relapsing MS has not been confirmed.