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What To Tell Your Physician About Relapsing MS Treatments and 14 Things To Ask

Updated on December 28, 2022
Article written by
Kelly Crumrin

For people with relapsing multiple sclerosis, a changing landscape of treatment options can mean new information to consider, new questions for your neurologist, and possibly even new treatment decisions. Whether your current treatment plan is effectively treating your MS or you’re thinking about switching disease-modifying treatments (DMTs), it’s good to know about your options.

When talking to your physician, it’s not all about what to ask; it can be just as important to know what to tell them. Your neurologist is your partner in treating relapsing MS. It’s vital to let them know about new symptoms, your personal treatment preferences, and any challenges you have with taking medication as prescribed.

This guide is designed to help you communicate your treatment goals and preferences with your doctor, so you can decide on your best treatment option. When you’re ready to discuss treatments with your doctor, bring this article to help facilitate the conversation.

What To Tell Your Physician: Your Preferences and Priorities

Help your health care provider understand whether your condition is changing and your preferences for medication. When you meet with your doctor, tell them if you are experiencing new symptoms or worsening symptoms.

Consider the following aspects of MS treatment and make a note of what feels important to you, so you can let your doctor know.

How Do You Prefer To Take Disease-Modifying Therapy?

  • Orally at home
  • By injection at home
  • By intravenous (IV) infusion at a clinic
  • Any of these ways

What Is Your Preferred Dosing Schedule for a DMT?

  • On a daily or weekly basis
  • Once every few weeks
  • As infrequently as possible
  • Any dosing schedule

Benefit vs. Risk

Which of these statements feels more true to you?

  • Taking a highly effective DMT is more important to me than avoiding rare but serious risks.
  • Avoiding rare but serious risks is more important to me than taking a highly effective DMT.

Newly Available vs. Long-Established Treatments

Which of these statements feels more true to you?

  • I am interested in taking a newly available DMT.
  • I prefer to take a DMT that has been available for many years.
  • I’d like to learn about participation in clinical trials for new MS treatments.

Possible Side Effects

Which of these statements feels more true to you?

  • I am most concerned about rare but serious potential side effects.
  • I am most concerned about common potential side effects that might affect my lifestyle.

Do You Have Trouble Sticking With Your Current Treatment Plan?

Be clear with your doctor about any challenges you experience in sticking to your current treatment plan. Do you experience any of the following issues?

  • I sometimes forget to take doses.
  • I dislike taking pills or injecting medication myself.
  • I sometimes skip doses due to side effects.
  • I sometimes skip doses because I don’t feel confident that my DMT is working.
  • I have trouble affording or accessing my DMT.
  • Other health conditions (or treatments I take for other health conditions) make it difficult for me to stick with my DMT.

14 Questions To Ask Your Doctor

These 14 questions can help you discover the information you need to make the best choices for your MS treatment. Look them over and make a note of any you’d like to bring up with your doctor at your next appointment.

My Current Treatment Plan

  1. Is my current DMT effectively treating my MS? Can you explain the criteria you use to determine this?
  2. Can you recommend ways to overcome challenges I face in taking my treatment?
  3. I experience side effects associated with my DMT. Can you recommend any ways to prevent or manage them?
  4. Can you recommend any ways to manage MS symptoms I experience?

Switching DMTs

5. Do you think I might benefit from switching to a different DMT? Why or why not?
6. If you recommend against switching now, can we set a time in the future to discuss it again?

    Considering a New DMT

    7. Why do you think a new DMT may be more effective for me than my current treatment?
    8. What are the potential benefits and risks of switching to this treatment?
    9. Will I need a washout period to get my current treatment out of my system before beginning the new DMT? Is my risk for an MS flare higher during the washout period?
    10. What is my personal risk for developing rare but serious side effects with this treatment?
    11. How (and how often) will my risk for serious side effects be monitored while I’m taking this treatment?
    12. What are the most common side effects of this treatment? How long are they likely to last? Is there anything I can do to avoid or manage them?
    13. How long will it be before my new treatment begins taking effect?
    14. Which treatments are covered by my health care plan?

      Managing Relapsing MS in Partnership With Your Doctor

      MS is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the myelin coating on the nerve cells of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). The progression of the disease depends on the type of MS. Periodic flare-ups are the hallmark of the relapsing forms of MS:

      • Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
      • Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
      • Active secondary progressive MS (SPMS)

      It’s important to remember that MS can progress even without exacerbations, new lesions, or new symptoms of MS. This is why it’s so important to form a partnership with your neurologist, get MRI scans and blood tests as needed, and communicate openly about your symptoms and quality of life.

      Read more about how treatments for relapsing MS work. Do you know which treatments are considered highly effective?

      Talk With Others Who Understand

      On MyMSTeam, the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones, more than 195,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with those who understand life with MS.

      Have you asked these questions in a conversation with your doctor? What do you recommend others with MS ask their doctors? Share in the comments below, or start a conversation with others on MyMSTeam.

        All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
        Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

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