Edward Neurosciences Institute opens MS Clinic.
Naperville Sun HealthAware column:
New drugs ease symptoms of multiple sclerosis
July 23, 2013
Several new drugs and treatments developed during the last decade for multiple sclerosis won’t cure it. But, they will help slow its progression and ease symptoms.
Early symptoms might include problems with vision, balance, dizziness or bladder function, or sensory changes, such as numbness or tingling.
“The downside of this wealth of options is that it can take a while to match the right treatment to an individual. MS patterns are often unpredictable, and each patient has a unique set of symptoms,” says Dr. Henry Echiverri, a neurologist with 22 years of experience treating patients with MS. He now directs the MS Clinic at the Edward Neurosciences Institute and sees MS patients at his office in Warrenville.
One woman who has persevered through the rigorous process of matching treatment to patient is Demetria Melgar, 41, who recently moved from Naperville to Chicago. She has battled MS for 12 years, and Dr. Echiverri, has been with her every step of the way to offer the latest treatment options.
Multiple sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the nerves’ protective layer, called the myelin sheath. This damage results in scarring that blocks signals the brain is trying to send to the body, such as when and how to move. The type and severity of symptoms depends on where this scarring occurs and how extensive it is.
Melgar noticed problems with her balance in early 2001 but resisted going to the doctor until she fell down in her living room a few months later. She was referred to Echiverri who diagnosed her MS, based on her symptoms, and MRI and spinal tap results. She started treatment but found the side effects of the usual injectable MS medications difficult to tolerate.
Echiverri decided to try a non-mainstream treatment called IVIG, a blood product administered intravenously. Melgar tolerated it well and says, “I suddenly felt much better.”
But Echiverri was still concerned about what he was seeing on her MRIs. Experience told him it was time to try another unconventional treatment to avoid a potentially disabling situation: Cytoxan, a drug used in cancer treatment, plus a high dose of Solu Medrol, a corticosteroid hormone. She started this protocol in January 2012 and completed it the next September. When she was stabilized, Echiverri put her on a daily regimen of a new oral drug called Aubagio.
“My walking and ability to use stairs have improved a lot. I no longer need a cane,” Melgar says. “Once in a while my balance is off a little, but I haven’t had a real flare up in a long time. I think I’m doing great. I may not be 100 percent, but I feel that something will come out that will make that possible in the future. And I have the best doctor.”
Echiverri says early treatment often helps patients avoid disability later.
“If you have neurological symptoms that aren’t going away — such as visual, sensory or balance problems — consider MS as a possibility,” Echiverri says.
For more information about and to schedule an appointment at the Edward Neurosciences Institute MS Clinic, call 630-836-9121.
Naperville, Illinois (IL) - Edward Hospital and Health Services