By Groshan Fabiola
Despite the fact that there is no specific cure for multiple sclerosis in present, existing treatments are effective in slowing down the progression rate of the disease and preventing the development of further complications. Considering the fact that most of the effects of multiple sclerosis are irreversible, it is imperative to timely diagnose the disease and begin the administration of the appropriate course of medications. With the right treatment and with the aid of supportive therapies (physiotherapy and kinetotherapy), patients with multiple sclerosis can regain control of their bodies and live normal, active lives.
The medications available today are used to accomplish a series of goals in patients with multiple sclerosis: some medication treatments are aimed at slowing the progression rate of the disease, while others are aimed at ameliorating its generated symptoms and prolonging the periods of remission. The medications that are nowadays extensively used to delay and control symptomatic flare-ups among patients with multiple sclerosis are known as “ABC drugs”. This category of medications consists of Avonex, Betaseron and Copaxone.
The so called ABC drugs are crucial in the treatment of multiple sclerosis, as they reduce the intensity, duration and frequency of the immune system’s attacks on healthy nervous cells. These medications act by triggering a series of biologic mechanisms that decrease the autoimmune response of the body. Prescribed in the appropriate dose, each of these previously mentioned multiple sclerosis medications can reduce the frequency and intensity of specific neurological symptoms by up to 30 percent.
Avonex (Beta-interferon-1a) is a very effective multiple sclerosis medication that is administered under the form of intramuscular injections. This medication is used to successfully alleviate a series of symptoms such as muscular weakness, visual problems, as well as cognitive affections (poor concentration, memory loss, confusion). Administered in the appropriate dose, Avonex can also reduce the frequency of symptomatic flare-ups. Due to the fact that it also generates various side-effects ranging in intensity from mild to moderate, Avonex is usually associated with acetaminophen and ibuprofen, drugs that minimize the undesired effects of Avonex on the body. The side-effects produced by the prolonged use of Avonex comprise fever, chills and muscular pain. However, these symptoms are completely eliminated when the treatment is interrupted.
Betaseron (Beta-interferon-1b) is an effective multiple sclerosis medication primarily administered to patients with secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis. Betaseron is administered under the form of subcutaneous injections and produces the best results on long-term use. The side-effects generated by Betaseron are usually mild and consist of flu-like symptoms and local skin irritation at the site of the injection.
Copaxone (Glatiramer acetate or Copolymer-1) is yet another efficient medication used to decrease the frequency and duration of multiple sclerosis flare-ups. This medication is also administered as subcutaneous injections. Unlike interferon-based medications, Copaxone is very well tolerated by the body and produces no perceivable side-effects. Under special circumstances, Copaxone can produce temporary irritation and tenderness at the injection site.
Apart from the popular ABC drugs, the treatment of multiple sclerosis often includes medications such as steroids (anti-inflammatory drugs), as well as anticonvulsive and antispastic medications. Amantidine (Symmetrel) is often used to eliminate the states of generalized fatigue characteristic to multiple sclerosis, while medications such as Oxybutynin (Ditropan) and tolterodine (Detrol) are administered to patients confronted with bladder problems due to implication of multiple sclerosis at the level of the urinary system. Chemotherapeutic drugs such as methotrexate and azathioprine (Imuran) are rarely used, being prescribed to patients confronted with severe types of multiple sclerosis.
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