Saturday 6 August 2022 11:19 PM Giving powerful drugs to patients who have suspected MS could spare them ... trends now
Giving powerful medication to patients suspected of having multiple sclerosis – but who are not yet formally diagnosed – could spare them a lifetime of debilitating symptoms, experts believe.
At present, the most potent drug treatments that tackle the underlying causes of the neurological disease are reserved for those with more advanced cases.
But a growing body of research suggests giving these types of medicines before symptoms worsen could keep the condition stable for up to a decade.
Now in a world-first trial, British experts will explore whether treating patients at the earliest possible stage could prevent some from deteriorating in the first place.
Some 130,000 people in Britain have multiple sclerosis (MS). The disease causes the body’s immune system to attack nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which affects patients’ bodily sensations and gradually leads to mobility and eyesight problems, muscle spasms, bladder issues and fatigue. There is no cure.
A growing body of research suggests giving some types of medicines before symptoms worsen could keep the condition stable for up to a decade (stock image)
There are several types, but the most common is what’s known as relapsing and remitting, which affects roughly 80 per cent of patients and causes symptoms to flare up sporadically, sometimes with years in between.
Most first seek medical help after experiencing a period of telltale symptoms, such as tingling and numbness in the arms and legs. But getting an accurate diagnosis is challenging.
Doctors perform brain scans to look for early signs of nerve damage in the brain, and a lumbar puncture to analyse spinal fluid for signs of MS-related damage.
Some patients will have several visible lesions – dark or light spots of scarring (sclerosis) in the central nervous system that appear different from normal tissue – but others may develop these later.
For one in five suspected patients, the lesions don’t develop at all and their diagnosis is not in fact MS.
So doctors have been reluctant to offer potent medicine that changes brain tissue at early stages to patients without several lesions, in case it turns out to be