Multiple Sclerosis Treatment in NJ, CT, MD, and the Washington, D.C., Area
Multiple sclerosis significantly impacts the central nervous system, which consists of the brain, spinal cord, and many nerves. People with the disease may experience vision problems, muscle weakness, and a loss of balance and sensation. Patients with multiple sclerosis in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area searching for effective treatment may turn to Regional Cancer Care Associates to receive infusion therapy prescribed by their neurologist.
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease, meaning that it causes the immune system to attack healthy cells. It primarily harms myelin — a sheath that guards brain and spinal cord nerves. By serving as a protective coating for nerves, myelin facilitates communication between the brain and other parts of the body. Over time, MS can lead to permanent damage to the nerves and can cause a host of other symptoms involving the brain, eyes, spinal cord, bladder, and other organs.
MS manifests differently in each person. While physicians cannot predict with absolute certainty the progression of the illness in individual patients, they have identified three general paths the disease takes. These courses, or types, are:
- Relapsing-remitting (RRMS): The most common form of MS, RRMS involves periods where symptoms get worse and then go into remission for a time.
- Primary progressive (PPMS): In PPMS, symptoms gradually grow worse over time, with patients not experiencing a cycle of relapse and remission.
- Secondary progressive (SPMS): In this form of MS, which typically occurs in people who have had RRMs for many years, with the disease shifts from a pattern of relapse and remission to one of progressively worsening symptoms.
- In addition to those forms of MS, a condition called clinically isolated syndrome is diagnosed when a person has a single episode consistent with MS. Many, but not all, people diagnosed with CIS will go on to clinically definite MS.
Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Signs of multiple sclerosis depend largely on the nerves affected and the degree of damage to the myelin sheath. Vision problems are a common initial symptom of the disease. Individuals may have blurriness and pain in one eye, signifying a condition called optic neuritis. Other frequently occurring symptoms are:
- Loss of coordination and trouble walking
- Numbness or tingling sensation, typically on one side of the body and often in the arms and legs
- Difficulty with bowel and bladder control
- Muscle spasms or weakness
- Memory loss
- Sexual problems
- A feeling akin to an electric shock with certain neck movements, particularly when bending the neck forward (Lhermitte’s sign)
Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis
Researchers continue to investigate what predisposes people to developing multiple sclerosis, but the exact cause of the disease remains unknown. Doctors have identified several risk factors, however, including:
- Location: People living far from the equator generally obtain less vitamin D from sunlight. This deficiency is tied to an increased risk for MS.
- Age: While MS may occur at any age, it most often develops in people between ages 20 and 40.
- Sex: Women are at a significantly higher risk for relapsing-remitting MS than men.
- Race: Caucasians, especially those of Northern European descent, are more likely to develop MS than member of other racial groups.
- Genetics: Individuals with a family member who had MS are more likely than the general population to contract the illness.
- Certain viruses and infections: Research indicates that some infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), may play a role in subsequent development of MS.
- Other autoimmune diseases: Having another autoimmune condition – such as type 1 diabetes, psoriasis, and inflammatory bowel disease – is associated with an increased risk for MS.
Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis
MS cannot be diagnosed based on the results of a single test. Instead, doctors draw on a variety of resources to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms and to establish the presence of MS. The evaluation process may include:
- History and physical examination: Most providers will start by obtaining detailed information on the patient’s health and that of family members and then performing a thorough physical exam. This process helps clinicians identify potentially significant symptoms of MS or other conditions, risk factors for different conditions, and information on the type and severity of potential MS.
- Blood work: Blood tests may rule out other illnesses and disorders, and emerging MS biomarkers may also assist with the diagnosis.
- MRI: This imaging test can identify lesions in the brain and spinal cord. Lesions occur as a result of myelin sheath damage. The doctor may inject the patient with a contrast material that better displays lesions and can help determine whether the disease is active.
- Spinal tap: Also referred to as a lumbar puncture, the spinal tap involves obtaining a sample of cerebrospinal fluid to look for irregularities in the antibodies related to MS. It also serves to rule out other conditions.
- Evoked potential test: This technique records the electrical signals produced by the nervous system following stimuli. Most versions ask the patient to observe a moving visual pattern or require the doctor to administer short electrical impulses to the arms and legs. The purpose is to assess nerve function by calculating electrical activity in the spinal cord and brain.
Although there is no cure for MS yet, several treatments are available for managing symptoms, slowing the disease’s progression, and accelerating recovery from relapses. Treatment is vital for patients with MS, as it often enables them to achieve more active lifestyles. The following is a list of treatments physicians may recommend to patients with MS:
- Oral, injectable, or intravenous disease-modifying therapies (DMTs)
- Relapse management medications, including steroids
- Physical rehabilitation
- Mental health counseling
- Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
- Lifestyle changes (obtaining ample rest, regular exercise, balanced diet, stress relief activities, etc.)
Infusion Therapy at Regional Cancer Care Associates
Several of the disease-modifying therapies used to treat MS are delivered via infusion, as are the steroid therapies administered to resolve relapses. Regional Cancer Care Associates provides infusion services to patients with numerous autoimmune diseases, cancers, and chronic conditions. Infusion therapy is performed at many community-based care locations throughout NJ, CT, MD, and the Washington, D.C., area.
The highly skilled healthcare professionals at Regional Cancer Care Associates include doctors, nurse practitioners, and other providers, all of whom display the utmost compassion when working with patients. Besides administering infusion therapy, they educate patients on their disease, discuss how the treatment works, and go over possible side effects.
A patient’s specific condition and symptoms determine the nature of his or her infusion therapy. Regardless of what treatment patients need, they can trust the medical staff at Regional Cancer Care Associates to guide them through each step of the process, answering any questions they may have.
Why Choose Regional Cancer Care Associates?
At Regional Cancer Care Associates, patients will find providers with extensive experience in infusion therapy. Collectively, these physicians treat tens of thousands of patients each year, customizing plans to meet their unique needs and schedules.
Another of the many advantages of Regional Cancer Care Associates is that infusions administered at an RCCA care center may involve less out-of-pocket cost to the patient than receiving an infusion in the hospital. Patients also may seek financial assistance to afford much-needed care if payment is still an issue.
Seek Infusion Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis at Regional Cancer Care Associates
As MS primarily affects the nervous system, living with the disease can be incredibly difficult for patients. The right treatment is essential to manage the condition and experience a higher quality of life overall. Visit one of the Regional Cancer Care Associates locations in New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and the Washington, D.C., area to access infusion therapy or treatment for MS, cancers, blood disorders, and other diseases.
CONVENIENT LOCATIONS IN NEW JERSEY, CONNECTICUT, MARYLAND, AND THE WASHINGTON, DC AREA
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call 844-474-6866. You can also schedule an appointment by calling the RCCA location nearest you.