Early multiple sclerosis treatment may lead to less disability

Starting treatment for multiple sclerosis soon after first experiencing symptoms of the disease may slow its progression.

North Vancouver resident Marilyn Lenzen, who was diagnosed with MS nearly two decades ago, hopes that everyone with MS, regardless of their socioeconomic status, has access to the same lifestyle opportunities to slow the progression of their disease. Courtesy Marilyn Lenzen

By Linda Searing, The Washington Post August 13, 2023

People who start treatment quickly are 45 percent less likely to advance to moderate disability in the next decade or so, compared to those who delay treatment, according to a study published in the journal Neurology.

The researchers describe moderate disability as still being able to walk unassisted but with mild to moderate issues with motor function, vision or thinking skills.

“When it comes to MS treatment, the earlier the better,” one researcher said in a statement released by the American Academy of Neurology.

In MS, the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and optic nerves), damaging the substance known as myelin (sometimes called white matter) that insulates and protects nerves.

This slows or blocks messages between the brain and the body and can lead to such symptoms as vision problems, muscle weakness, tremors, numbness, fatigue, walking and balance issues, and more.

No cure has been found for MS, but treatment has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms and delay progression of the disease.

The study involved 580 people, 50 and younger (average age, 34), who were tracked and tested via magnetic resonance imaging and clinical exams for about 11 years.

It compared three groups: those who started treatment with at least one disease-modifying drug within six months of their earliest symptoms (194 people), those whose initial treatment came six to 16 months after first symptoms (192 people) and those who did not start treatment until more than 16 months had elapsed since symptoms began (194 people).

Those who started treatment the earliest also were found to be 60 percent less likely to have moved to a more advanced stage of the disease, called secondary progressive MS.

They were also 50 percent more likely than late-starters to have MS that had not progressed in the year after starting treatment.

This article is part of The Post’s “Big Number” series, which takes a brief look at the statistical aspect of health issues. Additional information and relevant research are available through the hyperlinks.

Source The Washington Post


Association of Very Early Treatment Initiation With the Risk of Long-Term Disability in Patients With a First Demyelinating Event, Cobo-Calvo A, Tur C, Otero-Romero S, Carbonell-Mirabent P, Ruiz M, Pappolla A, Alvarez JV, Vidal-Jordana A, Arrambide G, Castilló J, Galan I, Rodríguez Barranco M, Midaglia LS, Nos C, Rodriguez Acevedo B, Zabalza de Torres A, Mongay N, Rio J, Comabella M, Auger C, Sastre-Garriga J, Rovira A, Tintore M, Montalban X. Neurology. 2023 Jul 19:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207664. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207664. Epub ahead of print.

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