How Can Blood Tests Be Used for an MS Diagnosis

Blood Test for MS Symptoms: What Is It All About?

MS is a chronic disease characterized by progressive loss of myelin sheath around nerve fibers. Myelination helps to protect neurons from damage caused by the brain’s electrical activity. Without myelin, nerves become damaged and lose their ability to transmit signals effectively. When myelin is lost, the nervous system becomes increasingly susceptible to damage and death.

The most common symptoms of MS are muscle weakness, numbness or tingling sensations in one or both legs (myoclonus), severe headaches, vision problems such as double vision, and difficulty walking. Other symptoms include fatigue, depression and mood swings. There may be other complications associated with MS including hearing loss, cognitive impairment and kidney failure.

There are two types of MS: relapsing-remitting and primary progressive. Relapsing-remitting MS is characterized by episodes of worsening symptoms followed by periods of remission. Primary progressive MS is characterized by progressively worse symptoms over time, often accompanied by other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis. Although there are many possible causes for these different forms of MS, they all share several common features.

MS can be confirmed by performing an MRI, which shows lesions in the brains of people with the disease. Other tests include the cerebrospinal fluid examination and evoked potential tests.

The exact cause of MS is not known at this time and there is no cure for this disease; however, treatment can help manage some of the symptoms. A healthy lifestyle and disease-modifying drugs are usually recommended to manage relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Blood tests for Multiple Sclerosis?

Although there is no known cure for Multiple Sclerosis, a blood test for Multiple Sclerosis may help to quickly and easily detect whether or not an individual has the disease.

Multiple Sclerosis is an autoimmune diseases where the body’s immune system attacks the protective coating (myelin) that covers nerve cells. There are several types of Multiple Sclerosis, but all are marked by periods of relapse and remission.

Some of the major types of Multiple Sclerosis include:

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: This type accounts for 85 percent of all Multiple Sclerosis cases and is marked by clear periods (remissions) when symptoms disappear, followed by symptoms that worsen (relapse). This cycle can repeat several times within a year or over many years. During a relapse, other symptoms may appear for the first time.

Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: This type accounts for 10 percent of all Multiple Sclerosis cases and is marked by a slow, steady progression of symptoms from the beginning with very few periods of remission.

Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: This type accounts for less than 1 percent of all Multiple Sclerosis cases and is marked by a transition from relapsing-remitting to a steady state with steadily worsening symptoms.

Progressive-Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis: This type occurs in less than 1 percent of all Multiple Sclerosis cases and is marked by slowly worsening symptoms that are punctuated by periods of relapse.

Benign Multiple Sclerosis: This type is very rare and accounts for less than 1 percent of all Multiple Sclerosis cases. Benign Multiple Sclerosis refers to a condition where the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are very mild such that they have little to no effect on functioning.

Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis:

There are several different types of treatment that can be used to treat the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis or even to potentially slow down the disease’s progression. Some of these treatments include medication, surgery, lifestyle changes and alternative medicine.

Multiple Sclerosis Medications: There are several different types of medication that can be used to manage the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. These drugs can help reduce the rate of disease progression and prevent relapses from occurring. Some of these drugs include:

Interferon: This is a medication that works by decreasing inflammation, which helps to minimize the damage done by an immune system attack on the myelin. Some of the brand name versions of interferon include Betaseron (which is given by injection), Extavia, and Intron A.

Glatiramer: This is a medication that contains some of your body’s natural immune regulating substances. It works by tricking the immune system into thinking that there is no threat, decreasing inflammation and preventing further damage to the myelin sheath. Some brand name versions of Glatiramer include Copaxone and Glatimer.

Fingolimod: This is a medication that is a sphingosine 1-phosphate receptor modulator. This works by preventing the migration of certain immune system cells to the central nervous system. This helps to prevent damage to the myelin sheath. Fingolimod is readily available as a generic medication.

Teriflunomide: This is a medication that works by decreasing inflammation and suppressing the immune system. Teriflunomide is not available everywhere, as it has only recently been released. When it is available, it is taken in pill form.

Dimethyl Fumarate: This is a medication that is currently only available in pill form that works by decreasing inflammation and slowing down immune cell activity.

Glucocorticoid Drugs: This is a medication that works by suppressing your body’s immune system. The medication reduces the number of cells that interact with the myelin sheath and reduces the rate that these cells attack it.

Immunosuppressants: This is a generic term for a class of drugs that suppress your body’s immune system. They can either slow down, or even stop, the attack on the myelin sheath.

MS Medicines That Help with Nerve Problems: There are several different types of medicine that can help to slow down the progression of nerve damage in people with Multiple Sclerosis, or even help with some of the symptoms. Nerve problems can also be treated through physical therapy and surgeries. These types of medicine include:

Antispasmotics: This is a class of medication that works by relaxing the smooth muscles within the body. This helps to prevent spasms in the muscles.

Anticonvulsants: This is a class of medication that works by limiting the excitability of the nerves. This helps to prevent the nerves from firing uncontrollably.

Nondepolarizing and Depolarizing Blockers: These medications work by slowing down the transmission of messages between the nerves and your muscles.

Treatments for Sensory Symptoms: There are several different types of medication that can help with the sensory symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis, such as tingling, numbness, and loss of feeling. These types of medication include:

Antispasmodics: This is a class of medication that helps to prevent or stop muscle cramps or spasms.

Antidepressants: This is a class of medication that works by increasing the levels of certain chemicals within the brain to help with depression and other mood problems.

Treatments for Bladder Problems: There are several different types of medication that can help with bladder problems, such as neuropathic bladder or overactive bladder caused by MS. These medications work by relaxing the muscles within the bladder, helping it to hold more and empty less often. These types of medication include:

Vesico-stimulants: This is a class of medication that causes the bladder to contract after sensing urine within it.

Anticholinergics: This is a class of medication that helps to prevent or decrease involuntary muscle contractions within the body.

Treatments for Bowel Problems: There are several different types of medication that can help with problems within the bowels caused by Multiple Sclerosis, such as chronic constipation or diarrhea. These types of medication include:

Stimulants: This is a class of medication that works by increasing the activity of the bowels to help with chronic constipation.

Stool Softeners: This is a class of medication that works by softening the stools to prevent straining while moving bowels.

Treatments for Pain and Spasticity: There are several different types of medication that can help with pain and spasticity caused by Multiple Sclerosis, such as meds that work by blocking pain signals from reaching the brain, or relaxants to help with muscle spasms. These types of medication include:

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): This is a class of medication that works by reducing pain, lowering fevers, and reducing inflammation.

Muscle Relaxants: This is a class of medication that works by preventing signals from the brain to the nerves to help prevent spasms.

Treatments for Tremors: There are several different types of medication that can help with the tremors in people with Multiple Sclerosis. These types of medication include:

Antipsychotics: This is a class of medication that works by blocking some of the receptors in the brain to help with conditions such as schizophrenia.

Benzodiazepines: This is a class of medication that is used to decrease anxiety, arterial tension, and seizures.

Dopaminergic Agonists: This is a class of medication that works by activating certain receptors in the brain.

COMPLICATIONS OF MS TREATMENT

Common Complications: Some of the more common complications of treatment for Multiple Sclerosis include:

Anxiety or Depression: These are both very common mental complications that can develop during treatment. At first, it is common to feel a great deal of stress and fear about what is going on with you medically. Over time, this may develop into feelings of anxiety or depression.

Weight Gain: This is also a very common side effect of some of the medication that is used to treat Multiple Sclerosis. Many of the drugs that are used to treat the condition can cause a person to feel constantly hungry and lead to rapid weight gain. Oftentimes, people can gain anywhere from 10 to 50 pounds.

Movement Disorders: This is a rare but very serious complication that can develop in some people who take certain medications that are used in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. This condition causes abnormal movements called dyskinesia to develop such as:

Tremors- These are sudden shaking movements that can occur in different parts of the body, most commonly in the hands, arms, legs, and feet.

Muscle Twitching- This is a condition that causes parts of the body such as the arms, legs, or face to twitch involuntarily.

Chorea- This is a condition that causes sudden rhythmical muscle contractions that cause a person’s movements to become sudden and irregular.

Parkinsonism- This is a condition that causes a person’s movements to become slow and rigid.

COMMON MS TREATMENTS

Disease-Modifying Drugs: These types of drugs slow down the progression of Multiple Sclerosis throughout the course of treatment. These drugs are normally not a cure, but they will help to stop or even reverse some of the damage that has been done to a person’s central nervous system due to Multiple Sclerosis.

Corticosteroids: This is a group of drugs that include prednisone, prednisolone, and methylprednisolone. They work by reducing the effects of substances in the body known to cause inflammation. They are not considered to be a cure for Multiple Sclerosis, but they can be used to treat some of the symptoms that are caused by this disease such as muscle weakness, blurred vision, and problems with balance.

Immunosuppressants: These types of drugs work by lowering a person’s immune system. Normally, the immune system is in charge of combating infection within the body and eliminating foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Unfortunately, people who have Multiple Sclerosis have an overactive immune system that attacks a protective covering that is found around nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord (a substance known as myelin). By taking immunosuppressants, a person’s immune system can be put on hold for a while. This gives the body a chance to repair some of the damage that has been done and hopefully reverse some of the effects of Multiple Sclerosis.

Interferons: These types of drugs normally work by interfering with the way that the virus that causes hepatitis B produces proteins. Also, interferons help to slow down the replication of the virus. There is a form of interferon that has also been shown to have some benefit in slowing down the progression of Multiple Sclerosis, but this is only available in the UK at this time.

OTHER TREATMENTS

Stem Cell Transplants: There are many theories as to why people develop Multiple Sclerosis. One theory states that people with this disease have a problem with the way that their bodies produce myelin. A myelination cell transplant is a treatment that has been shown to have some success in animal models. During this procedure, the patient is given millions of stem cells that are known to produce myelin, these stem cells are injected into the patient’s spinal cord. The hope is that the repaired areas in a person’s central nervous system will help repair damaged areas and even regenerate some of the dead myelin-producing cells.

Vaccines: A vaccine is normally made from a dead or weakened form of a virus. The goal of a vaccine is to provide the body with some form of protection against disease without actually causing the person to get sick. There are people who believe that Multiple Sclerosis may be caused by a virus, and if this is true then a vaccine could be developed to help prevent the disease from occurring within a person or to help slow down the disease once it has started.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

1. Do Nothing: This is not normally recommended for people with Multiple Sclerosis, but it is an option.

Since there is no known cure for this disease, if you do nothing then the disease will progress and worsen within a person over time.

2. Corticosteroids: These drugs (also called steroids) are normally used to reduce or eliminate severe inflammation within the body.

This type of drug is normally used to help treat the relapses that occur within a person’s nervous system.

Methotrexate (MTX): This drug has been shown to be helpful in slowing down disease activity for some people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.

Immunosuppressants: These drugs are normally used to reduce a person’s reaction to an allergen or infection within their body (such as with organ transplants). It is believed that by taking immunosuppressants, the body’s immune system can be weakened which helps to slow down the disease process that is currently damaging a person’s central nervous system.

Interferon: This drug has been shown to reduce relapses and slow down the worsening of symptoms for some people with Multiple Sclerosis.

Treatments that are currently being explored by researchers include:

Vaccines: This would involve the person getting injections of a weak or killed form of the germ that causes the disease. Normally, a vaccine will help build up a person’s immune system so that it can combat infection within their body.

Monoclonal Antibody Therapy: This is a newer type of treatment that involves the use of monoclonal antibodies. A monoclonal antibody is made when a single type of antibody (produced by a single B-cell) is replicated into hundreds or thousands of identical antibodies with the same specificity. It is believed that this type of treatment would not only help prevent the disease from occurring within a person, but it may help repair any damage that has already been done.

Gene Therapy: This involves replacing the dysfunctional genes that are causing a person to have Multiple Sclerosis with working genes.

Stem Cell Transplants: This involves having a person undergo a stem cell transplant. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that are able to mature into other types of cells. Anywhere between $5000 and $20000 is normally needed to undergo this treatment.

Organ Transplants: There has been some evidence that people with Multiple Sclerosis who have undergone an organ transplant (such as a liver or kidney) have remained free of disease activity for an extended period of time.

Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: This involves having a person receive a transplant of hematopoetic stem cells (which are found in the blood).

Ocrelizumab: In August of 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of Ocrelizumab for treating people with primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis. This treatment helps to slow the worsening of symptoms, but does not reverse the damage that has already been done.

With all of this information, have you made your choice yet?

In my next post, I’ll go over the process of how one would go about creating a new disease that is similar to Multiple Sclerosis.

I’m sure you’re all eager to get started.

Toodles!

~Audrey

Posted by Audrey at 2:12 PM

About this Post

This is a preview of what the Introduction to Neurology will look like. This is the first of three parts in the series. In each part, I’ll go over one of the major categories of Neurology: Diseases, Conditions, and Disorders.

I will be including a lot of research in these posts, so the posts will be more informational and less story driven. That’s not to say I won’t try to add some personality in my writing, but each post will be quite a bit longer than the ones for Psychiatry.

This series is going to take me awhile to write, as each post is essentially me gathering information and organizing it while adding my personal touch to it.

I’m not going to set up a specific release schedule, but I’ll try to get one post up each month. Again, this may fluctuate, as I have many other things on my plate.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Until next time!

Sources & references used in this article:

Combining beta interferon and atorvastatin may increase disease activity in multiple sclerosis by G Birnbaum, B Cree, I Altafullah, M Zinser, AT Reder – Neurology, 2008 – AAN Enterprises

Performance of blood tests in diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease in a specialist clinic by …, P Davies, Z Matek, MS Murphy – Archives of disease in …, 2004 – adc.bmj.com

Blood tests to diagnose fibrosis or cirrhosis in patients with chronic hepatitis C virus infection: a systematic review by R Chou, N Wasson – Annals of internal medicine, 2013 – acpjournals.org

The effect of fecal occult-blood screening on the incidence of colorectal cancer by …, JH Bond, F Ederer, MS Geisser… – … England Journal of …, 2000 – Mass Medical Soc

Comparison of two rapid whole-blood tests for Helicobacter pylori infection in Chinese patients by WK Leung, FKL Chan, MS Falk, R Suen… – Journal of clinical …, 1998 – Am Soc Microbiol

Comparative evaluation of immunochemical fecal occult blood tests for colorectal adenoma detection by S Hundt, U Haug, H Brenner – Annals of internal medicine, 2009 – acpjournals.org