Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) can bring many changes to your life. But personalized care from a trusted program makes them more manageable. The expertise and unwavering support patients receive at Henry Ford Health has earned our program national recognition for MS care.

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis happens when the immune system attacks the protective outer layer of nerve fibers (myelin sheath). These attacks interfere with the nerves’ ability to communicate within the brain and with other parts of the body.

Most people with MS experience periods of:

  • Relapse: A temporary attack that causes new or worsening MS symptoms. A relapse may last days to months. During a relapse, you may also experience new symptoms
  • Remission: MS symptoms either go away entirely or are less intense during this time.

MS symptoms

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis may include:

  • Vision problems, including double vision
  • Numbness or muscle weakness in the arms and legs
  • Difficulty with coordination and balance
  • Fatigue (unusual tiredness)
  • Problems with concentration, memory and judgment
  • Uncontrollable shakiness (tremors)
  • Vertigo, which can make you feel as if the room is spinning

Types of multiple sclerosis

There are four types of MS:

  1. Clinically isolated syndrome is the first episode of MS symptoms lasting at least 24 hours. More than one episode may be a sign of MS. The first episode may be not enough to confirm a diagnosis.
  2. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) causes unpredictable periods of relapse and remission.
  3. Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) brings progressive worsening of neurological symptoms and affects your quality of life. Relapses can happen with SPMS.
  4. Primary progressive MS (PPMS) typically occurs later in life with symptoms that advance steadily. In some patients PPMS may occur quick, in others slowly. There are no periods of remission.

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Multiple sclerosis care at Henry Ford: Why choose us?

We are a comprehensive program delivering the full range of services for all types of multiple sclerosis. Our expertise and compassion are why more patients put their trust in our team: We received more than 2,300 visits in 2019 alone.

Highlights of our program include:

  • Accurate diagnosis: MS symptoms mimic those of other neurologic disorders, making it difficult to diagnose. At Henry Ford, you are in expert hands. Even if you’ve already undergone testing or received an MS diagnosis, we start from the beginning with a thorough evaluation. These extra steps ensure you receive appropriate care.
  • Broad range of treatments: Over time, your care needs may change. We are always here for you with additional options and support. We offer the latest medications, clinical trials and a team approach to care.
  • Convenient care: Treatment for MS requires services from multiple specialists. At Henry Ford, many of them are available in one location. Eligible patients can see a neurologist, physical therapist and occupational therapist in one visit on a monthly basis. Read more about the Center for Comprehensive MS Care.

MS complications

Over time, multiple sclerosis attacks can lead to:

  • Bladder and bowel problems: MS may damage the nerves controlling your bladder or bowels.
  • Vision difficulties: Swelling in the optical nerve can blur vision and cause temporary blindness. In some people, vision problems occur years after diagnosis.
  • Depression: The stress of living with MS, medication side effects or damage to nerves controlling mood raise your depression risk.
  • Memory problems: In some people, MS affects areas of the brain responsible for memory. You may not be able to recall information as quickly.

Multiple sclerosis evaluation

MS evaluation at Henry Ford starts with you describing your symptoms and when they started. We also perform a neurologic exam to assess muscle strength, coordination, sensation and reflexes. We then determine other types of testing you may need, which may include:

  • Blood tests to rule out other conditions, such as other inflammatory disorders and infections
  • Evoked potential studies in our electromyography (EMG) lab to measure how nerves respond to gentle electrical pulses
  • Imaging studies, including magnetic resonance imaging, help us pinpoint and assess nerve damage
  • Spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, which analyzes a sample of spinal fluid for proteins typically present in people with MS
  • Optical coherence tomography to capture detailed images of nerves behind your eye and check for damage that can affect your vision

MS treatment

The treatment that’s right for you depends on the type of MS and how it affects your daily life. Your care may include:

Medications for multiple sclerosis

Disease-modifying therapies slow MS progression and the frequency of relapses. A high dose of steroids or similar medications reduces myelin sheath swelling and may end relapses faster.

Other MS treatments

You may also benefit from:

  • Lifestyle recommendations: A healthy lifestyle can help you feel your best while in remission and may improve recovery from relapses. Recommendations often include getting plenty of sleep, eating a balanced diet and staying physically active.
  • Physical and occupational therapy: We guide you through exercises to maintain existing muscle strength and coordination. As multiple sclerosis progresses, therapists introduce methods for safely performing daily tasks, including devices to lower your fall risk.
  • Referrals to specialists: If you are experiencing MS complications, we refer you to the appropriate Henry Ford specialist, including:
    • Neuro-ophthalmologists who treat vision problems
    • Urologists for bladder issues
    • Gastroenterologists for bowel problems
    • Pain medicine experts to help you feel more comfortable
Take the next step

Let us help you schedule an appointment, call (800) 436-7936.


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