Treatment options for multiple sclerosis (MS) include injections, infusions, and oral medications. While these medications cannot cure MS, they can help manage the symptoms, prevent disease flares, and improve a person’s quality of life.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the brain and spinal cord. In MS, the immune system mistakenly attacks the myelin sheath, which is the fatty material that surrounds and protects the nerves. This process impedes communication between the brain and the rest of the body, causing various symptoms such as movement and coordination issues.
This article provides an overview of MS, discusses the differences between injections and infusions, and lists the available medications for injection, infusion, and oral administration.
When treating MS, doctors may recommend injections or infusions of disease-modifying therapies (DMTs). According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), these medications can help to:
- control and limit new inflammation in the CNS
- slow the progression of disability
- reduce the frequency and severity of relapses
The biggest difference between injections and infusions is the time it takes to administer the treatment. An injection delivers the medication immediately, while an infusion delivers the medication over
For MS treatment, injections are usually more frequent and approximately weekly, whereas infusions may be monthly or less.
An injection involves administering medication using a needle and syringe. The treatment is suitable for relapsing and long-term MS.
A person with MS may self-inject DMTs. A healthcare professional will instruct a person on injecting themselves at home. The injections will typically be subcutaneous, which means a person injects them into the fatty tissue beneath the skin.
A person cannot administer infusions at home and must receive them from a trained professional in a clinical setting.
To perform an infusion, a healthcare professional administers the medication through a catheter, or IV line, directly into a vein. The medical professional will use a needle to guide the catheter into the vein and then remove the needle, leaving the catheter behind.
Injectable medications for MS include:
- interferon beta-1a (Avonex)
- interferon beta-1b (Betaseron)
- interferon beta-1b (Extavia)
- glatiramer acetate (Copaxone)
- ofatumumab (Kesimpta)
- peginterferon beta-1a (Plegridy)
- interferon beta-1a (Rebif)
Infusion medications for MS include:
- alemtuzumab (Lemtrada)
- mitoxantrone (Novantrone)
- ocrelizumab (Ocrevus)
- natalizumab (Tysabri)
When devising a treatment plan for MS, a person and their doctor will consider the advantages and disadvantages of different treatment options. Some aspects to consider include:
- safety and tolerability
In some cases, oral medications may be more appropriate than injections or infusions.
Oral medications for MS include:
- teriflunomide (Aubagio)
- fingolimod (Gilenya)
- monomethyl fumarate (Bafiertam)
- siponimod (Mayzent)
- cladribine (Mavenclad)
- ozanimod (Zeposia)
- ponesimod (Ponvory)
- dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera)
- diroximel fumarate (Vumerity)
MS is one of the most common diseases of the CNS, affecting more than 2.8 million people worldwide.
MS is a progressive demyelinating disease, meaning it involves damage to the fatty myelin sheath surrounding nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.
A healthy myelin sheath protects and insulates the nerves, allowing them to transmit impulses effectively. This enables a person to perform movements rapidly, smoothly, and in a coordinated manner.
In MS, sites of demyelination in the brain or spinal cord can develop lesions or plaques. These abnormalities disrupt nerve impulses to and from the brain, resulting in MS symptoms.
The symptoms of MS can differ between people and depend on the areas of the CNS affected. Symptoms may include:
- movement and coordination issues
- emotional and cognitive changes
- visual issues
- sexual dysfunction and bladder and bowel issues
- numbness, tingling, or pain
MS is a progressive disease that involves the demyelination of nerve fibers within the CNS. The disease can lead to a range of symptoms, including disability and fatigue.
Treatments for MS can help slow the progression of disability and reduce the frequency and severity of disease flares. Treatments are available in the form of injections, infusions, and oral medications.
A person who receives injections as part of their treatment plan can self-administer these medications. However, a person who receives infusions must undergo the procedure in a healthcare setting. Oral disease-modifying therapies may be a more convenient option, but further research is needed to assess the long-term effects of this delivery method.
Each type of treatment has advantages and disadvantages. A person can discuss the different options with a doctor.