Early treatment has long-lasting effects on MS activity, researchers found in a study published in the Aug. issue of Neurology, a medical journal from the American Academy of Neurology. According to a Newswise press release, researchers studied 468 patients randomly assigned to receive either early treatment or placebo.
After participants were diagnosed with MS or after two years, the participants could switch from placebo to an interferon beta-1b drug or something similar, the press released stated. After 11 years, researchers reevaluated the 278 who remained in the study. Those who had early treatment were 33% less likely to be diagnosed with MS than those who received delayed treatment, according to the study.
“Overall, early treatment appears to have a benefit on relapses, especially early in the disease, but limited effects on other outcome measures, including outcomes reported by patients,” said Brian C. Healy, PhD, in the press release. Healy is on staff at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote an accompanying editorial.
Results of the study showed that people in the early group had more time before their first relapse of the disease than people in the delayed group — 1,888 days compared with 931 days. The early group’s overall yearly relapse rate was 0.21 compared to 0.26 in the delayed group.
The April 2016 MD Magazine Peer Exchange video, “Importance of Early Intervention in Multiple Sclerosis” featured Patricia K. Coyle, MD, professor and vice chairwoman (Clinical Affairs) and director of the Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center at Stony Brook University Medical Center, New York. “Virtually every single study has said that if you look at early treatment — as opposed to delayed treatment — and you look at late consequences, the early-treated groups are doing better,” she said in the video. “I think in a paradigm of accumulating permanent injury that is the best possibility of truly changing the natural history of the disease — to stop that damaged paradigm as much as you can in its tracks, early.”
According to the WebMD website, people may begin to show signs of the disease between ages 20 and 40. Sometimes several years can pass between episodes. The website lists MRI, spinal tap and evoked potentials as possible tests to diagnose the disease.
“Getting an MS diagnosis can be a lengthy process,” the website stated. “When some people finally learn they have the condition after months or years of symptoms, they take the news as something of a relief. For others, it can be shocking.”
The initial symptom often is blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion or even blindness in one eye, according to the American Academy of Neurology website. “Most MS patients experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance,” the website stated. “These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing. In the worst cases, MS can produce partial or complete paralysis.”
According to the National MS Society website, more than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide, “because symptoms can be completely invisible, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated,” the site stated.
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