Advances Across the Spectrum
Quick diagnosis and new therapies allow tailored, effective treatment for multiple sclerosis
One of the hallmarks of multiple sclerosis (MS) is unpredictability. “Symptoms can vary greatly, and each patient’s clinical history is different,” says neurologist Gary Clauser, MD, with LVPG Neurology. “Among the most consistent symptoms are loss of vision (optic neuritis), and numbness, tingling or weakness in extremities, including the trunk.” Symptoms may flare for a day to several weeks, then temporarily disappear, only to return later. MS affects some people mildly while for others it is debilitating.
MS occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks the central nervous system. “Attacks cause scars or lesions, which is what ‘sclerosis’ refers to,” Clauser says. Lesions make it more difficult for nerves to transmit signals to and from the brain.
Expanding array of therapies
Treatment can significantly limit the disease’s impact. “When I started working with MS Center patients 11 years ago, we had only a few injectable therapies, and they were inconsistently effective,” says nurse practitioner Jean Bakke Cain, CRNP, with LVPG Neurology. “Now we have more than 15 disease-modifying therapies with different levels of aggressiveness and risk, so treatment can be tailored to individual needs.”
Treatment is especially effective at a Center for Comprehensive MS Care designated by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “The Multiple Sclerosis Center of the Lehigh Valley at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH) was among the first in our region to achieve the designation,” Clauser says. Clinicians at comprehensive centers are trained to administer and monitor complex treatment regimens such as the newer infusions. Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) is able to provide specialty care for all aspects of MS, including urology, physical therapy and psychiatry.
Advances across the spectrum
LVHN has participated in MS clinical trials for over 20 years, among them one for LEMTRADA® (alemtuzumab), an infusion medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2014.
The biggest impact in MS patient treatment is the ability to diagnosis earlier and faster. “It once took years to identify MS,” Clauser says. “Now with the benefit of MRI, it’s possible to diagnose the first time we see a patient.”
To ensure those who may have MS are seen quickly, the MS Center is making the pledge to see new patients within one week. “The sooner we diagnose, the sooner we can start patients on something that prevents further attacks, and the better they will do over time,” Cain says.