Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). In multiple sclerosis, the body's own immune system attacks nerve cells and the myelin sheath, the protective covering that surrounds nerve cells. These damaged areas form scar tissue, called sclerosis, which interferes with nerve signaling in affected areas of the brain and spinal cord. This may result in a variety of symptoms that may indicate that multiple sclerosis therapy is required, including blurred vision, loss of balance, tremors, numbness, painful lesions (scar tissue), extreme fatigue, and more. Symptoms may sometimes flare up, disappear, or worsen and result in complete disability.
There is as yet no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, multiple sclerosis therapy can help slow the progression of the disease and control symptoms as well as treat flare-ups. In combination, these multiple sclerosis treatments can help people living with the disease to improve their quality of life and functioning.
Medications used in multiple sclerosis treatment include corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, disease-modifying drugs such as interferon, muscle relaxants, drugs that treat bladder or bowel control problems, and antidepressants. Complementary multiple sclerosis treatment that may be provided includes physical therapy to help improve or maintain physical function, exercise programs, nutritional support, stress management strategies, and lifestyle changes to help patients improve overall health and cope with symptoms and limitations of the disease.
Brigham and Women's Hospital provides comprehensive care for patients seeking multiple sclerosis treatment services.
Sophisticated multiple sclerosis treatment at Brigham and Women's Hospital
The Multiple Sclerosis Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital offers a full range of specialized multiple sclerosis therapy services from our experienced and caring staff, using the latest innovations in treatment as well as monitoring for signs of progressing disease. The Center's new MRI scanner employs one-of-a-kind technology that constructs 3D images of the brain to measure the volume of multiple sclerosis lesions and, over time, whether or not they are growing. The Center also has its own immunology laboratory dedicated to blood testing for patients with multiple sclerosis.
The Center is part of our Department of Neurology, which provides comprehensive neurological care for patients with all types of neurologic diseases, including Parkinson's disease treatment and stroke treatment. Our Boston neurology specialists strive to provide patient-focused, world-class medical care for the entire spectrum of neurological diseases.
In addition, our Boston neurosurgery specialists work closely with our cancer neurologists and other specialists as part of a multidisciplinary team that provides comprehensive care for patients with brain tumors and neurologic complications of brain cancer treatment.
Multiple sclerosis research at Brigham and Women's Hospital
Over the past decade, researchers at the Multiple Sclerosis Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital have made significant advances in the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis, including developing new drugs for multiple sclerosis therapy, integrating MRI imaging to visualize the disease process, and understanding the immunologic basis of the disease. The Center is still recruiting for a Natural History Study that has over 2,000 patients with multiple sclerosis enrolled in what will be the most comprehensive, long-term study of the disease ever done. Along with MRI imaging, the study will involve blood testing, clinical evaluation, psychological testing and quality of life assessment.
In this video, Howard L. Weiner, MD,, Director, Brigham Multiple Sclerosis Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), describes research focused on improving multiple sclerosis treatment and finding a cure for this debilitating autoimmune disease. Areas of BWH research include a longitudinal study of MS patients to understand various forms of MS and its long term impact, development of therapies to stop MS attacks, use of stem cells to regenerate the nervous system and development of a vaccine using the body's immune system.