Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system; it disrupts signals that flow between the brain and body, often affecting the spinal cord. Fortunately, for those suffering from primary progressive MS, a new drug may slow the decline of the disease.
The Many Facets of MS
With any autoimmune disease, the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. With MS, it’s the myelin, the protective sheath that covers nerve fibers, that gets attacked. Without protection, the nerves begin to deteriorate, and eventually can become permanently damaged.
Two to three times more women are affected by Multiple Sclerosis than men. Symptoms can vary depending on the amount of nerve damage. Some can lose the ability to walk, suffer from vision loss, or even become paralyzed.
While MS is often disabling and progressive, about 85-90% of common cases experience a roller-coaster history of episodes and symptoms. There are periods of time where the disease gets better, goes into remission, or gets worse. (By the way, the promising news is that remission can last sometimes for months or even years.)
“Primary Progressive” is the type of MS the remaining 10-15% of patients acquire. This, unfortunately, is a form of MS that slowly continues to get worse over time. Until now, there hasn’t been a medication that has been able slow the decline of primary progressive.
The New Drug
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved a drug, ocrelizumab, to treat primary progressive MS. Results from clinical trials showed the disease progressing more slowly when patients took the drug. Ocrelizumab has also been approved for the more common form of MS as well. Another study from earlier this year showed that patients with the non-rare form of MS relapsed half as often when they used the new drug.
The patient is infused with Ocrelizumab every six months. It is geared to decrease inflammation by stamping out immune “B” cells. Previous medications focused on T cells, so this is indeed a newer area of treatment exploration. So far, side effects have been deemed safe, but time will tell in the long-term.
Experts and medical practitioners may all have varying opinions or theories on why a person gets MS. Because it’s an autoimmune, it could be predisposition triggered by stress or toxins ingested or in the environment. Another suspicion is that MS appears years after having contracted a specific type of virus. Some evidence points to a vitamin D deficiency as a cause for poor immune reactions. (More cases of MS appear in countries farther from the equator—possibly because the inhabitants have lower levels of vitamin D.)
Whatever the cause, there is no real cure. There are treatments that aid in modifying the course of the disease and accelerating recovery from attacks. Symptoms can be managed, and medications are available to assist in achieving remission. Now there is a drug that can help those with primary progression as well.
As with any chronic illness it’s essential to practice clean and healthy living to help keep symptoms at bay. This would include: mindful eating, regular exercise, getting proper rest habitually, lowering stress, and enjoying a positive outlook. For more on best health facts and advice, check out GetThrive!