Thursday, July 16, 2015

Treatment for MS-Related Itching

Pruritus in MS can be tricky to treat. If the itching is mild, treatment is usually unnecessary and the symptom often goes away on its own. If the itching is severe, prolonged, or disrupts your daily life, talk to your doctor about possible treatments.

Since itchiness associated with MS is neurologic in origin, cortisone cream and other topical treatments are rarely helpful. There are some medications, however, which may be useful in diminishing the itch, including anticonvulsants (e.g. gabapentin, carbamazepine, phenytoin), antidepressants (e.g. amitriptyline, paroxetine, mirtazapine), and the antihistamine hydroxyzine (Atarax).

It is tempting to scratch the itch, but resist the urge because scratching may actually increase the feeling of itchiness. Scratching too hard can also cause problems such as broken or damaged skin that bleeds or becomes infected. And if the skin is itchy, but also numb, then you might cause a lot of damage before you realize it.

Instead, you may want to experiment with applying ice or cold packs to temporarily relieve the itching. Cold seems to override the itchiness and “confuse” the already mixed up nerve signals. Never apply ice directly to skin (always wrap in a towel or washcloth) and never leave ice on one area for more than 15-20 minutes at a time.

Read this post in its entirety:
How Can I Fix This Crazy MS Itchiness?

(photo credit: "Ice Sculpture" by Andy Rogers is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

See also: Itchiness as an MS Symptom

Itchiness as an MS Symptom

When pruritus occurs as a symptom of multiple sclerosis, it is similar to other neurologic sensations - pins and needles, burning, stabbing, or tearing pain - known as dysesthesias. The itching with MS is often paroxysmal (coming on suddenly with great intensity) but temporary in nature and lasting anywhere from a couple of seconds to minutes. It can even seem to get worse the more you scratch.

Heat triggers pruritus for some people with MS and for others, it seems to be related to movement or tactile stimulation. For some reason, the itching often occurs at night with an intensity that has the power to wake you up from sleep.

Other causes of MS-related itching may include temporary skin irritation following injections, allergic reaction to medication, or side-effect of medication. In clinical trials, one of the common side effects of the oral medication dimethyl fumarate (Tecfidera) was flushing, followed by the sensation of heat or itching.

Read this post in its entirety:
MS Signs vs Symptoms: What is Pruritus?

(Photo credit: "Scratching her head" by Tambako is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

See also: Treatment for MS-Related Itching

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Copay Assistance Programs, and More, Available to MS Patients

Copay assistance programs can be blessings for patients who cannot afford to pay for prescribed medications despite insurance coverage. Frequently, drug manufacturers are able to provide financial help directly to patients in need. To access manufacturer-sponsored programs, visit the brand website for the MS drug which you have been prescribed.
For patients who do not quality for manufacturer programs (perhaps due to insurance coverage through government programs such as Medicare), the following non-profit organizations offer additional help paying for medications. Some of these programs even offer financial help with insurance premiums and transportation costs to obtain treatment.
In general, to participate in these programs, the patient must have valid medical insurance that covers the prescribed medication, which in turn must be included on the program formulary; and the patient must meet annual household income criteria established by each program.

  • Good Days
  • The Assistance Fund
  • Healthwell Foundation
  • Patient Access Network
  • Patient Services, Inc
  • Caring Voices Coalition
  • Patient Advocate Foundation

Read this post in its entirety:
7 Assistance Programs MS Patients Need to Know

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Monday, July 6, 2015

Talking to Your Doctor About Family Planning and MS Drugs

Some of the newer MS medications are contraindicated with pregnancy, including drugs that must be stopped for a period of time before a patient attempts to become pregnant, such as Aubagio or Gilenya. However, approximately half of all pregnancies are unintended, whether mistimed, unplanned, or unwanted, according to the CDC. So it is important to do some planning in advance to prepare yourself for the unexpected.

Talking to Your Doctor

Neurologists have much area to cover in a brief period of time during appointments. Family planning and reproduction are topics that likely do not rank in the top ten things to discuss with your MS doctor.

My neurologist may have asked once, ten years ago, whether starting a family was something I needed to discuss. Currently, my rheumatologist asks during each appointment whether my husband and I plan to have children and whether we are using consistent birth control as one of my medications is known to cause birth defects and miscarriages. It doesn’t matter that I’m almost 47 years old, my doctor still asks.

In addition to discussing symptoms and disability, please talk to your doctor about issues related to sexual activity, pregnancy, medication use, contraception, and family planning. Listed below are medications (included in the HealthCentral article), commonly used with MS patients, which have been categorized as carrying some level of risk to an unborn fetus. Research other medications on websites such as

If the topic of pregnancy, family planning, and MS medications is one which concerns you, please take time during your next doctor’s visit to discuss these concerns. If you do become pregnant while taking one of these medications, you can contact patient pregnancy registry programs to report drug exposure.

Read this post in its entirety:
Drugs to Take (And Not to Take) When Pregnant with MS

Monday, June 29, 2015

Unemployed Persons with MS Perceive Greater Cognitive Dysfunction

A recent Dutch study examined the relationship between subjective and objective executive functioning and employment status in relapsing-remitting MS patients (n=55; 85 percent female; mean age: 47 years; 36 percent employed). Patients underwent neurological, cognitive and psychological assessments at their homes, including an extensive battery of executive tests.

Compared to employed patients, those who were unemployed experienced:
  • Longer disease duration
  • Higher distractibility; difficulty sustaining attention
  • More cognitive fatigue
  • More difficulties with organizing and planning (reported by 60 percent of the unemployed patients, but only 25 percent of employed patients)
The employed group consisted of RRMS patients who had a paid job (n=20), either full-time (15 percent), part-time (55 percent), or less than 12 hours a week (25 percent). The unemployed group consisted of patients without a paid job, including homemakers, volunteers, patients receiving disability or unemployment benefits, patients on prolonged medical leave, or early retirement.

Researchers observed below average executive performance in 4-51 percent of the RRMS patients on some aspect of executive functioning, with the highest percentages related to decreased processing speed (in 20 percent of patients) and impaired performance related to visuospatial memory and response (in 51 percent). Possible influential factors such as age, educational level, physical functioning, and self-reported depression, anxiety, physical and social fatigue did not differ between groups.

Read this post in its entirety:
Employment and MS: Self-Reported Cognitive Problems in the Unemployed