Separating side effects from symptoms

MS is a complex medical condition with many different symptoms. Experts don't know why there are such big differences in the way MS "shows up" in different people. Symptoms can be mild or severe. Not all people with MS will experience all symptoms, and often the symptoms will improve during periods of remission.

Symptoms will depend on the location of the myelin damage (myelin is the protective layer surrounding your nerves) and can include:

  • weakness, numbness, and tingling (in the arms, legs, or other body areas)
  • extreme fatigue
  • muscle stiffness or spasticity
  • shaking and loss of coordination
  • poor balance and unsteadiness, which can cause a staggering gait
  • speech disorders such as slurred speech
  • depression
  • pain
  • troubles with memory, concentration, thinking, or solving problems
  • vision changes or vision loss
  • vertigo and dizziness
  • bladder problems
  • bowel problems
  • sexual problems
  • heat intolerance

In addition to these symptoms, people with MS may experience side effects, which are undesirable effects associated with the use of medications. All medications have the potential to cause side effects, but some are more likely to do so than others. The key group of medications for MS treatment belongs to the disease-modifying, or immunomodulator, family.

Treatments for MS may cause side effects, but these vary from medication to medication. Research studies show that most side effects are manageable.

The side effects of MS medications are important because they present another challenge for people with MS. Since treatments should help people with MS maintain their current level of functioning so they can continue doing the activities they value, side effects should be the last thing to slow people down!

Figuring out whether you are experiencing a side effect of a medication or a symptom of MS is the first step. If you are unsure, discuss your concerns with your team of health professionals – they are there to ensure that you get the most from your MS treatments.

Familiarize yourself and know how to deal with side effects and symptoms, as MS medications involve a long-term commitment. It is important that people with MS use treatments as directed by their doctors and continue to with their treatment unless their doctors suggest otherwise. Read on for ways to take control of side effects.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Medication-Side-Effects

Is it the medication or the flu?

One common side effect when people first start their MS medications is a general feeling of being unwell. This is described as a "flu-like" side effect. People may experience muscle aches, fever, chills, and weakness when they are beginning MS treatments.

Fortunately, these effects usually disappear over time. Some people find that acetaminophen or ibuprofen, both available without a prescription, may also help relieve these flu-like side effects if taken half an hour before the MS medication. People may also find it useful to "sleep off" these flu-like effects by taking their MS medication right before bedtime. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your MS medication can cause flu-like symptoms and what you can do to manage them.

In regards to the actual flu, the North American flu vaccine (or "flu shot") is developed each year to work against 3 strains of influenza virus, based on trends seen in the Southern Hemisphere. It is unlikely that the flu shot would help relieve the flu-like side effects of MS medications, since it works on the body in a different way. However, in addition to proper and frequent handwashing, the most effective way to decrease complications and reduce the impact of influenza is to get the flu shot as a preventative measure.

For people with MS, it may be wise to get the flu shot. Interestingly, there has been some debate on whether it is safe to do so. Most experts recommend that people with MS receive the flu shot, since influenza can trigger an MS attack (also known as a relapse). It is estimated that 1 in 3 patients will experience a relapse after catching an influenza virus. People who got the flu shot have a much lower risk of having a relapse (estimated to be 1 in 20 people). People taking interferon medications should have a blood test before receiving the vaccine.

Talk to your doctor if you are considering getting the flu shot.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Medication-Side-Effects

Getting to the point of injection-site reactions

Many people feel anxious about injections. It can be a daunting challenge to feel comfortable about getting your medications by injection. However, most medications for MS are given by injection. Talk to your health care team if you have any concerns about injections. This team can help put you at ease about taking your MS medications.

The term injection-site reaction may include skin redness, swelling, itchiness, discoloration, and tenderness at the place where the injection is given. MS injection medications are given as either subcutaneous (SC) or intramuscular (IM) injections. Both can cause pain, and a deeper IM injection may cause more bruising and pain than a SC injection.

To minimize injection-site reactions, rotate the injection sites according to a schedule provided by your health care team. This prevents any one site from being overused. In general, the same injection site should not be used more than once per week.

Your doctor or nurse will instruct you on proper injection techniques. This training process varies depending on the individual. Some people may feel confident about giving themselves injections early on, while others will need more instruction before they feel comfortable. It is important that you understand all the proper procedures before trying to give the injection yourself.

You can always ask for additional help if you need it, and there are tips that your health care professional can give you to lessen the risk of injection-site reactions. A variety of different support programs with on-call health professionals are available; ask your doctor or nurse how to access these resources.

Another factor to consider is the medication schedule. All these medications come with different frequencies of injection, so talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of the different injection frequencies and how they fit into your lifestyle. Talk to your doctor about what works with your lifestyle. Define what convenience means to you.

Keep in mind that there may be other factors you want to consider when choosing the best treatment plan for you. Talk to your doctor about available options.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Medication-Side-Effects

Follow your nose: a potpourri of other side effects

MS treatments may be associated with several other types of side effects. For example, medications can also cause low white blood cell counts, mood disturbances, or changes in liver function tests. As well, some people have experienced unpredictable flushing (a feeling of warmth and/or redness) and chest pains.

Doctors can detect low white blood cell counts using a blood test. White blood cells are important because they help the body fight infection. When the number of white blood cells decreases too much, the body is more at risk from infections. People taking MS medications will need to have regular blood tests.

Many different things can affect the mood of a person with MS. In addition to having a long-term medical condition, a variety of other stressors may come into play as someone learns how to cope with MS. It is not surprising that mood disturbances can appear in people with MS. However, MS medications may also contribute to changes in mood. Having a support network from friends, family, and other people with MS often helps put things in perspective. Speak to your doctor to discuss how best to manage mood disturbances.

People taking MS treatments will also require regular blood tests to monitor signs of liver changes. Liver changes usually appear within the first year of taking MS medications. Blood tests monitoring for liver changes are usually more frequent in the first 6 months. Your doctor may decide to adjust the dose of MS medication based on the results of your blood tests. People taking MS medication should consult their doctor immediately if they notice any sign of unusual yellowing of the skin or eyes, nausea or vomiting, itchiness throughout the body, or easy bruising.

MS injectable medication has resulted in a sudden reaction minutes after an injection has been given. This reaction may involve flushing, chest tightness, a racing heart, anxiety, or even difficulty breathing. Some people have had the reaction for approximately 15 minutes, and then have had it resolve without any further problems. It is important that people know that this post-injection reaction can occur, and that they be prepared to get immediate medical attention if it does happen.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/MS-Medication-Side-Effects