Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease. It causes the immune system to react abnormally, attacking the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. There are a number of treatment options that can help reduce symptoms of MS, including medications and stem cell therapy.

Different people may experience a variety of different symptoms of MS. They may also experience symptoms that vary in severity. Some people may have mild symptoms that are easily manageable, while others may have severe symptoms that can cause serious problems.

A person may also experience an MS relapse, which is sometimes known as an attack or flare-up. A relapse is the occurrence of new MS symptoms or the worsening of symptoms.

There is no cure for MS. However, there are a variety of treatment options.

Treatment for MS has changed over the years. Medical professionals and scientists are continuing to develop new treatments to help ease a person’s symptoms and reduce the progress of the disease.

In this article, we outline the different treatment options available to a person with MS.

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Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) are a series of medications that a person can take to suppress the inflammatory aspects of MS. This can help prevent relapses and ease some of the symptoms of MS. These medications can also slow down the damage that relapsing MS causes over time.

Doctors may recommend that a person begins using DMTs during the early stages of MS. This is because these drugs can slow the progression of the disease, particularly if a person uses them when symptoms are not yet severe.

Some of these medications are available to take orally, some via injection, and some as part of an infusion.


Medical professionals consider DMTs safe to use. The medications have well-established records of safety thanks to numerous clinical observations and long-term extension studies.

Side effects vary from drug to drug. Common side effects of injectable DMTs include reactions at the site of injection and flu-like symptoms such as weakness, fatigue, muscle pain, and chills.

Other less common side effects include headaches, the worsening of muscle spasms, liver problems, and depression.

Oral DMTs

Common side effects of oral DMTs include headaches, hair loss, diarrhea, nausea, and abnormal liver tests.

More serious and rare side effects of oral DMTs include liver problems, decreases in white blood cell count, and a vision problem called macular edema that can cause the same symptoms as an MS vision attack.

Infusion DMTs

Common side effects of infusion DMTs include nausea, hair loss, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, and rashes.

Less common side effects include an increased risk of infections, a weakened immune system, and infusion reactions that can be life-threatening.


DMTs cannot cure MS, but they are an effective treatment to help prevent relapses and ease the symptoms of the disease.

One 2016 review of a number of scientific studies stated that the efficacy of DMTs varies from person to person.

It added that the injectable therapies are expected to protect against 20–35% of relapses, oral therapies are expected to protect against 50–55% of relapses, and infusion therapies are expected to protect against over 60% of relapses.

A 2018 review analyzed 22 studies and stated that there is good evidence that DMT improved the short-term progression of the disabilities that MS causes.

Quality of life

MS can have a large impact on a person’s quality of life. One 2017 review of a number of clinical trials stated that DMTs tend to have a positive impact on a person’s health-related quality of life.

In one 2017 study, researchers interviewed 40 people with MS to learn more about their quality of life and treatment preferences.

The study found that people’s treatment preferences were affected by a number of factors, with a positive self-image being crucial. The results showed that the efficacy of their selected DMT was important, but people were also influenced by their well-being and how the treatment burden might impact their role.

The study showed that people preferred oral DMTs. As long as these drugs did not cause side effects, they managed to enable a person to feel less pathologized, which meant they felt less like a patient and more like a parent, lover, or skilled professional, for example.

The study said DMT’s successful symptom management enables people with MS to reconnect with their former roles and activities. This allows them to preserve a “crucial sense of their pre-MS self and identity.”

Stem cells are immature cells in the human body that can mature into other specific cells. They play an important role in growth and help the body repair itself. They do this by replacing cells that a person loses through wear and tear, injury, or disease.

Stem cells can also self-renew, so they can divide and create more new cells.

Medical professionals can use stem cells to treat certain medical conditions. They can inject a person with healthy stem cells during stem cell therapy to replace damaged or abnormal cells in their body.

Before this procedure, the doctor will destroy the dysfunctional immune system that causes MS symptoms using certain cytotoxic drugs. They then give the person stem cells to help replace their old immune system cells with new, functional immune cells.


One 2019 review states that the safety of stem cell transplants for MS has improved in recent years. It states that the mortality rate of this procedure has fallen from 7.3% between 1995–2000 to 0.7% between 2008–2016.


The same 2019 review states that there is lots of convincing evidence that stem cell therapy is effective in controlling MS symptoms and can help improve neurological disability in people with MS.

A 2017 review states that stem cell transplants can stop MS disease activity for 4–5 years in 70–80% of people with MS. This review adds that this makes stem cell therapy a more effective treatment than all other MS therapies.

Quality of life

One 2019 review of a number of clinical trials states that a number of different stem cell therapies were able to improve the quality of life for people with MS.

When a person has an MS relapse, they may experience a worsening of symptoms. During severe relapses, a person may experience a number of symptoms, including loss of vision, severe weakness, or poor balance.

These types of relapses can interfere with a person’s mobility, safety, and ability to function. This means that doctors will often treat these relapses with corticosteroids.

These drugs reduce inflammation, which can speed up the end of the relapse. A person will usually take a 3- or 5-day course of intravenous or oral corticosteroids.

Corticosteroids are an effective treatment for relapses, but doctors do not believe they have any long-term benefit to treating MS itself.


Long-term use of corticosteroids can cause a number of side effects, including:

This is why corticosteroids are only used as a short-term treatment for MS relapses. Medical professionals generally consider short-term use as safe.

Short-term use of corticosteroids in treating MS can still lead to some side effects. These include:


Medical professionals consider intravenous corticosteroids an effective treatment for MS relapses. However, one 2017 review of a number of medical trials revealed that high-dose oral corticosteroids were just as effective as corticosteroid injections.

The review also stated that there was no difference between how well people tolerated oral and intravenous corticosteroids.

Quality of life

By helping reduce the length of MS relapses, corticosteroids can help improve the quality of life for people with MS.

However, more research is required to determine to what extent these medications can help improve quality of life.

The following treatment options are available for people with MS experiencing specific symptoms of the condition:

SymptomTreatment options
Fatiguemedicines such as amantadine
establishing healthy sleep patterns
avoiding drugs that can worsen fatigue, such as some painkillers
Visual problemsmay go away alone within a few weeks
steroids can help severe symptoms
gabapentin can treat involuntary eye movements
Muscle spasms or stiffnessphysiotherapy
a muscle relaxant, such as baclofen or gabapentin
an alternative medicine, such as tizanidine or diazepam
cannabis-based medicines
Mobility issuesphysiotherapy
medicine for shaking or dizziness
mobility aids, such as a walking stick or chair
changes in the home, such as a stairlift
Nerve painmedicines such as gabapentin or carbamazepine
Muscle and joint painphysiotherapy
a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) machine, which can stimulate the nerves
Difficulty remembering, thinking, or learningreferral to a clinical psychologist
Emotional difficultyreferral to a clinical psychologist
therapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
Sexual difficultysildenafil (Viagra) can help males maintain or achieve an erection
referral to a sex therapist
Bladder issueshandheld external stimulators can help people begin to urinate
a continence nurse or physiotherapist can help with difficulty emptying the bladder
botulinim toxin injections
bladder exercises
electrical treatment
Bowel issueslaxatives or suppositories can help a person manage constipation
anti-diarrhea medicine or pelvic floor exercises can help treat bowel incontinence
Speech or swallowing issuesreferral to a speech and language therapist

It is important that a person with MS knows what treatment options are available to them.

A person may also wish to ask about how effective each treatment option is and what side effects are associated with each treatment.

A person should also ask their doctor how long the treatment will be, and what the treatment will involve.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the central nervous system.

This can cause a number of symptoms including weakness, problems walking, stiffness and muscle spasms, blurred vision, vertigo, and dizziness.

There are a number of treatment options that can help reduce symptoms of MS, including medications and stem cell therapy.

If a person experiences a worsening of symptoms, this is called a relapse. A person can treat relapses with short-term doses of corticosteroids.

It is important that a person with MS is aware of the treatment options available to them.