News 8 On Call: frequently asked questions about Multiple Sclerosis

Health

Multiple Sclerosis is a potentially disabling autoimmune disorder, in which the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system, affecting the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.  

It is more common among women than men. 

Related: Walk MS event expected to raise tens of thousands of dollars on Sunday

Symptoms include fatigue, numbness, and problems with vision and walking.  

Dr. Joseph Guarnaccia, Director of the M.S. Treatment Center at Griffin Health, said a frequently asked question is:

When will there be a cure? 

He said, “If you look at a cure as meaning arresting the disease, so that it doesn’t go any further, I think we do achieve that already with our medications in a certain percentage of people. If you talk about a cure in terms of restoring damage, that’s going to take longer.”

Patients also want to know: Do I have to take medication for the rest of my life?

“As people get older, the immune system does tend to slow down,” Dr. Guarnaccia explained, “And we see people who’ve been very stable for long periods of time. We are starting to have those conversations as to when they can taper off medication provided that their condition is stable.”

Will I end up in a wheelchair?

He answered, “We do know that people who start treatment early, regardless of what the treatment is and are controlled, especially in the first few years, their chances of not becoming significantly disabled are much higher.”

What else can I do other than medication?

“We do stress vitamin D. We know that low vitamin D levels are a risk factor for M.S. I encourage people to experiment with diets.  There are published M.S. diets. People can purchase books and see what fits in their lifestyle,” said Dr. Guarnaccia.

Should I try medical marijuana?

He responded, “We did a survey here as part of a state sponsored study where we querried our patients. We had over a hundred participants into exactly how they are using medical marijuana. A number of them report significant benefits.”

Dr. Guarnaccia said exercise is also important. Yoga, meditation can also help control some of the symptoms and anxiety of M.S. Research, he said, continues to focus on drug development.

There are now 17 FDA approved drugs with two okayed just in the last month.

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