Understanding Multiple Sclerosis: Your questions answered

Join us on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk to learn the latest in MS research and treatments.
Published: Mar. 24, 2023 at 5:42 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Dr. Carlos Mora in Carilion Clinic’s Department of Neurology has seen a change as comparable as night and day when it comes to treatment for Multiple Sclerosis.

Mora said when he was treating patients decades ago, even as recently as the 1990s, there were hardly any treatments for MS patients. Today there are more than 24 drugs and other therapies available to treat the disease.

“Don’t give up,” he urges.

Dr. Mora joined us on the WDBJ7+ Digital News Desk for National MS Awareness Month. He explained MS was first described by scientists around the end of the 17th century, and our understanding of the disease has progressed immensely, especially in the last few decades. MS is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease which affects the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve. Patients are found to be predisposed if they are deficient in Vitamin D and are exposed to the Epstein-Barr Virus, also known as human herpesvirus 4.

Multiple Sclerosis often presents in the body with blurry vision that lasts hours or days. Patients may also have double vision, vertigo, numbness and tingling from the chest down. Once thought to mostly affect only people in their 20s through their 50s, Dr. Mora said teenagers, even children, are now being diagnosed, along with people in their sixties and seventies. This is due to better education for medical providers. In fact, Dr. Mora said, more patients are being diagnosed by primary care providers as opposed to neurologists. This, coupled with information available on the internet and community awareness, is rapidly expanding education and research on the disease.

Treatments have also come a long way, he explained. Dr. Mora said some treatments start by restoring Vitamin D in the body. While there are more drugs available, Mora calls on Congress to mitigate their costs. He said some patients are paying more than $1,000 out of pocket per month to afford their medication. Insurance companies are also switching some of his patients to switch to generic brands.

Still, he said, now is a good time to be diagnosed, as he says it is no longer a disease of severe, debilitating disability as it once was. That said, Mora said there is still a lot of stigma, and encourages everyone to better understand the disease and support research for its prevention and treatment.

Dr. Mora encourages patients and caregivers to consult the National MS Society.

You can learn more about MS through the MS Alliance of Virginia and the conference the organization is hosting this weekend.