"Recent clinical evidence shows that diagnosing and treating relapsing forms of MS as early as possible may help slow disease progression, and this survey provides interesting insight into how some neurologists are beginning to embrace that data," said Barry G.W. Arnason, M.D., professor of neurology, James Nelson and Anna Louise Raymond professor, University of Chicago. "It is important that we continue this dialogue publicly, particularly given the challenges in early diagnosis of relapsing forms of MS. The first symptoms can be so mild that people do not suspect MS nor visit their doctor."
Irreversible damage to nerve fibers (called axons) can occur in the early stages of MS, even before any permanent symptoms are apparent. Brain lesions also can occur in the early stages of the disease and damage continues even when the person has no symptoms of an attack and feels well. Therefore, MS specialists advise the early use of a drug that effectively helps limit lesion formation, reduce relapse rate and possibly slow disability progression.
The majority of neurologists surveyed indicate that they believe MS patients live, on average, three to four years with the condition before diagnosis or treatment. Yet, 79 percent of respondents indicate that brain and spinal MRI may support the diagnosis of relapsing MS following the first clinical attack. More than half (59 percent) say they would recommend starting treatment with prescription medication after the first clinical attack suggestive of MS, which is in line with recently published scientific data. Currently
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