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Multiple Sclerosis

  • Clinical Updates in Women's Health Care CU
  • March 2020

ABSTRACT: Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory and demyelinating disease of the central nervous system. The disease affects more women than men and often is diagnosed during a woman’s childbearing years. Typical clinical presentations of the disease are extensive and variable, with symptoms that include dysregulated mood, fatigue, vision problems, weakness, tremor, imbalance, abnormal sensations, bladder dysfunction, and heat sensitivity. If a woman aged 15–50 years experiences these neurologic symptoms in isolation or combination, and the symptoms are not explained by other underlying medical conditions, MS should be suspected. Multiple sclerosis can be divided into four clinical subtypes: 1) relapsing-remitting MS, 2) second- ary progressive MS, 3) primary progressive MS, and 4) clinically isolated syndrome. Relapsing-remitting MS at the time of onset is the most common form and accounts for approximately 80% of all cases of MS 1. Relapsing-remitting MS does not affect life expectancy. However, because of the neurodegenerative and progressive course of the disease, patients accumulate physical and cognitive disabilities over time that result in impaired ability to work, increased financial burden, and slightly increased mortality 2 3 4. A variety of possible risk and prognostic indicators have been identified that may predict the course of disease, particularly the extent of relapses and disability. Multiple sclerosis currently is incurable, but many disease-modifying therapies are available that can reduce the frequency of clinically evident exacerbations and accumulation of disease burden as defined by the number of lesions identified on magnetic resonance imaging. The choice of disease-modifying therapies, contraception use, and treatment of symptoms should be individualized based on age at onset and disease activity and, during pregnancy, the gestational age. Proactive management of MS across the woman’s life cycle reduces morbidity, improves maternal and fetal health during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and increases quality-of life-measures for patients and their families.

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