Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system. In severe cases, the disease results in permanent paralyses or blindness; in milder cases, there may be numbness in the limbs.

Multiple Sclerosis Clinic

The Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at UI Health provides comprehensive and compassionate care for patients with multiple sclerosis and related diseases. Our experts from multiple specialties collaborate to provide personalized care and treatment to enable our patients to manage their condition better and enhance their quality of life. We offer the latest treatments with consideration of safety and quality of life.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Because MS affects the central nervous system, which controls all actions of the body, the symptoms can vary depending on which nerves are damaged and to what extent. The symptoms may be so mild that some patients do not notice anything until much later, while others may be aware from very early stages. The most common warning signs of MS are:

  • Bladder or bowel problems
  • Cognitive abnormalities with memory, thinking, and concentration
  • Depression and other emotional changes
  • Fatigue
  • Prolonged blurred or double vision
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Numbness or weakness in one or more limbs
  • Pain or tingling in some parts of the body
  • Involuntary quivering movements
  • Electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease that can affect each person differently. For some, it starts with a subtle sensation, and it could take months or even years to be noticed. For others, however, symptoms worsen much more rapidly — within weeks or months.

Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

The diagnosis of MS is made after ruling out other conditions that might cause similar symptoms. There is no single test to confirm MS. After learning about your medical history and performing a thorough examination, your doctor may recommend:

MRI of the brain and/or spine: MRI often reveals plaques or scars typical of MS. It can show clear signs of inflammation present in deep parts of the brain or spinal cord that are red flags of the disease.
Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) evaluation: Examining a sample of the CSF can show abnormalities associated with MS. This also can help rule out infections and conditions with symptoms similar to MS.

Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

Many drug treatments now are available to modify the course of the disease and alleviate symptoms. Our experts use a comprehensive, multispecialty approach to design a treatment plan to fulfill the different and specific needs of every patient. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, reducing the severity and duration of attacks, and attempting to slow the progression of the disease. Our team is dedicated to improving your overall quality of life.

Treatments for Modifying the Disease Course
Several disease-modifying therapies are available for relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis, including:

  • Injectable therapies: Medications, such as beta interferons and glatiramer acetate (Copaxone), are injected under the skin or into muscle to reduce the frequency and severity of relapses.
  • Oral therapies: Medications like fingolimod, dimethyl fumarate, and teriflunomide can reduce relapse rate. 
  • Monoclonal antibody treatment: A monoclonal antibody is a laboratory-produced molecule created to specifically bind to target cells or proteins. For MS, these treatments, which are administered via IV, include natalizumab (Tysabri) and alemtuzumab (Lemtrada).

Treatments for MS Symptoms

  • Physical therapy: A physical therapist can teach you exercises and show you how to use devices to make it easier to perform daily tasks. Physical therapy also can help manage leg weakness and gait problems often associated with MS.
  • Muscle relaxants: These can help with pain, muscle stiffness, or spasms.
  • Other medications: Medications may be prescribed for depression, sexual dysfunction, and bladder or bowel-control problems associated with MS.

Treatments for MS-Related Attacks
If you are experiencing severe attacks that interfere with your ability to function, you may benefit from:

  • Corticosteroids: Drugs prescribed in high doses to reduce nerve inflammation.
  • Plasmapheresis: A procedure in which plasma, the liquid portion of blood, is removed and separated from the blood cells. In individuals with MS, plasmapheresis removes proteins in the blood partially responsible for attacking the central nervous system.