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multiple sclerosis

spasticity clinicfaqs

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks the protective tissue around nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves. These attacks leave behind scar tissue, also referred to as plaque. The plaque interferes with nerve impulses, causing a number of symptoms, including fatigue, pain, numbness, walking and coordination problems, bladder and bowel dysfunction, cognitive deficits and spasticity. Depending upon the area of the central nervous system that has been damaged, a patient can have a varied combination of symptoms.

Although a patient may be diagnosed with MS, doctors will also identify the exact course of the disease so that an appropriate treatment plan can be determined.

  • Relapsing-remitting is the most common form of MS. Patients experience short, but frequent relapses or flare-ups of symptoms. Most MS patients are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting.
  • Primary-progressive involves a slow, but steady progression from the onset of symptoms with no distinct relapses or remission.
  • Secondary-progressive involves less frequent relapses that are longer lasting. About half of patients with relapsing-remitting MS progress to secondary-progressive MS within 10 to 12 years of initial diagnosis.
  • Progressive-relapsing is a relatively rare form of MS, characterized by distinct relapses. Patients may or may not experience recovery between relapses and the disease steadily worsens over time without remission.

How is it diagnosed?
How is it treated?
How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Frequently Asked Questions


How is it diagnosed?

In addition to a physical exam that assesses each patient's symptoms and medical history, doctors will determine the diagnosis and progression of a patient's disease using the latest technologies:

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) provide detailed views of the brain and spinal cord and can detect plaque on the protective tissues surrounding the nerve fibers, a common sign of MS. MRI is the most commonly used test to diagnose MS.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid analysis - utilizes a spinal tap to check spinal fluid for elevated levels of inflammatory cells, another sign of the disease.
  • Evoked potential tests - Physicians record electrical activity in the brain and help determine how the brain reacts to stimuli. The electrical impulses measured in patients with MS will be smaller and slower.
  • Blood tests - are used to rule out other conditions similar to MS, such as Lyme disease.

 How is it treated?

There is no cure for MS, however, clinical studies and experience have shown that early treatment of multiple sclerosis can help delay disability progression. Doctors focus less on treatments and more on strategies to delay progression of the disease, treat symptoms, address flare-ups, improve function and provide psychological and emotional support.

Doctors use a number of medications, known as disease-modifying agents, as a way to reduce disease progression. Patients with flare-ups often are treated with steroids and physical therapy. Patients with painful spasms and stiffness may be eligible for baclofen therapy or botulinum toxin therapy, a spasticity inhibitor that can provide up to four months of relief.

Physical and cognitive therapy and rehabilitation is provided to improve function and ensure patient safety. Some patients may also receive therapy to aid in speech and swallowing problems. Patients may receive medications and therapy specific to their symptoms.


How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

The multiple sclerosis program at Advocate Christ Medical Center offers world-class care to patients through progressive treatments and clinical research. Led by Dr. Arthur Itkin, our program has received national recognition as one of eight programs in Illinois chosen to be a National Multiple Sclerosis Society treatment center.

Our multidisciplinary team of highly qualified practitioners includes neurologists, neuropsychologists, urogynocologists, and radiologists. We combine the latest diagnostic tests using state of art MRI technology to arrive at a quick and decisive diagnosis.

Patients at Christ Medical Center have access to the latest symptomatic therapies, from cognitive dysfunction and fatigue to bladder and bowel dysfunction. Physiatrists and urogynocologists at Christ Medical Center help manage the urinary urgency and incontinence problems commonly experienced by patients with advanced stages of MS.

Our highly successful spasticity clinic offers the very latest treatments to address the painful spasms and stiffness commonly experienced by patients with multiple sclerosis.

Through our affiliation with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, patients can enroll in clinical drug trials and clinical trials that study the impacts of existing and potentially new treatments.

Having treated hundreds of patients, the expert team at Advocate Christ Medical Center's multiple sclerosis program offers the full range of diagnostics and treatment plans customized specifically for patients based on their individual disease progression.

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