(BPT) - If you’ve been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), it’s common to feel overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next.1 With an ever-changing disease like MS, everyone’s personal experience is different, so it’s important to be open and honest with your doctor about your MS symptoms and how it may affect your day-to-day life and goals.2 This will help you and your doctor create a personalized plan that addresses your whole health.
Need advice on where to start? Here are three important topics to discuss with your doctor about how MS can affect your daily life.
Keep mental and emotional health top-of-mind
Following an MS diagnosis, focusing on your physical health is critical, but it’s important to also take care of your emotional well-being for overall wellness.3 Everyday life can be stressful enough, but for people living with MS, this can be compounded by the unpredictability of the disease.3 In addition to stress, people living with MS often experience other emotional changes, such as depression, anxiety and irritability.3 In fact, people with MS may be 2-3 times more likely to experience clinical depression than the general population.4
Nurse practitioner Stephanie Agrella, PhD, APRN, B.C., Director of Clinical Services, Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Central Texas Neurology, shares her experience helping newly diagnosed MS patients over the years, noting, “Mental health is so important. I always start visits with my patients by asking how they’re feeling emotionally. Many of my patients have benefited from talking with a counselor or finding a support group.”
If you’re experiencing emotional changes like grief, anxiety or depression, consider seeking support through counseling, joining self-help groups and building a supportive environment, or seeing a mental health professional.3 There are a number of resources available to help you find support, including on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website.
Understand that MS can impact your intimate relationships
Personal relationships and intimacy are crucial to living a full life, and that’s no different for people living with MS.5 However, MS can present challenges when it comes to intimate relationships, and changes in your sexual health may interfere with your quality of life.6 If you’re newly diagnosed with MS and experiencing sexual problems, you’re not alone. Sexual dysfunction is very common, yet patients and doctors are often hesitant to bring up this topic.2,6 Discuss strategies with your doctor that may help address changes in your sexual health, including treatment.
“Some of my patients ask me if MS can impact their libido, and the answer is ‘yes,’” said Agrella. “This can happen for a few reasons, so be sure to have an open conversation with your doctor to determine if it’s your MS or something else causing changes in your sexual health. My hope is that each patient finds a doctor they feel comfortable with to discuss more intimate topics, like sexual health, that can really impact their day-to-day life.” It may be helpful to keep track of your symptoms in a journal so you can recognize patterns and have a record to reference when discussing with your doctor.5
Talk about what’s next in your life plans
Most people are diagnosed with MS between ages 20 to 50.7 With a higher prevalence of MS in women — who are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS than men — this can cause many patients to wonder how MS may impact their life plans like starting a family.7,8
“Family planning is something many of my patients ask about, often at our first visit,” says Agrella. “It’s an important factor that helps shape a personalized treatment plan for them, since some treatments offer patients more flexibility.” There are no disease-modifying therapies approved for use during pregnancy.8 Keep your doctor updated on any plans to start a family, so you can work together to tailor your treatment plan accordingly.
Discuss available treatment options
In the past five years alone, five new MS treatments were approved in the U.S., including the most recent FDA-approved option, PONVORY®, a once-daily oral treatment for adults with relapsing MS.9,10 In a two-year clinical study, PONVORY® was superior at reducing the number of relapses and lesions compared to a proven oral therapy,* and nearly 90% of people taking PONVORY® showed no disability progression over two years.10†
With any medication, it’s important to understand the potential side effects. The most common side effects for PONVORY® are upper respiratory tract infections, elevated liver enzymes (abnormal liver tests) and high blood pressure.10‡
If you are considering pregnancy, PONVORY® may also be an option to discuss with your doctor, as it leaves the body naturally in about one week after pausing treatment with no elimination procedure required.10§ Use effective contraception during and for up to one week after stopping PONVORY®.10¶
“Especially for people who are newly diagnosed, it’s important to tell your doctor how MS is impacting your daily life, including emotional well-being and sexual health, as well as any plans to start a family,” notes Agrella. “These types of honest conversations help inform shared decision-making, which is key to a personalized treatment plan. Be sure to ask your doctor about the variety of available treatment options that may be right for you.”
PONVORY® is not indicated for emotional changes such as depression, anxiety, and irritability or sexual changes such as sexual dysfunction.
*PONVORY® reduced the average number of new gadolinium-enhancing (GdE) T1 and new or enlarging T2 lesions.
†There was no statistically significant difference in the percentages of people experiencing disability progression between PONVORY® and its comparator. Disability progression was determined with predefined increases in Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) scores, which were confirmed after 3 months over the course of the ~2-year study. 3-month disability progression was observed in 10.8% of people taking PONVORY® vs 13.2% of people taking a proven oral therapy.
‡While these are the most common side effects, there are other serious potential side effects of PONVORY®.
§When PONVORY® is stopped, symptoms of multiple sclerosis may return and become worse compared with before or during treatment. Always talk to your healthcare professional before you stop taking PONVORY® for any reason. Tell your healthcare professional if you have worsening symptoms of multiple sclerosis after stopping PONVORY®.
¶PONVORY® may be harmful to unborn babies. Patients should talk to a healthcare provider if they are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.
IMPORTANT SAFETY INFORMATION
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION I SHOULD KNOW ABOUT PONVORY®?
PONVORY® may cause serious side effects, including:
Your healthcare provider may delay starting or may stop your PONVORY® treatment if you have an infection.
Do not take PONVORY® if you:
Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of these conditions, or do not know if you have any of these conditions.
Before you take PONVORY®, tell your healthcare provider about all your medical conditions, including if you:
Tell your healthcare provider about all the medicines you take, including prescription medicines, over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements.
Using PONVORY® and other medicines together may affect each other causing serious side effects.
Especially tell your healthcare provider if you take or have taken: Medicines to control your heart rhythm (antiarrhythmics), or blood pressure (antihypertensives), or heart-beat (such as calcium channel blockers or beta-blockers); medicines that affect your immune system, such as alemtuzumab; and medicines such as rifampin, phenytoin, or carbamazepine.
You should not receive live vaccines during treatment with PONVORY®, for at least 1 week before taking and for 1 month after you stop taking PONVORY®. If you receive a live vaccine, you may get the infection the vaccine was meant to prevent. Vaccines may not work as well when given during treatment with PONVORY®.
Talk with your healthcare provider if you are not sure if you take any of these medicines.
HOW SHOULD I TAKE PONVORY®?
What are the possible side effects of PONVORY®?
PONVORY® may cause serious side effects, including:
The most common side effects of PONVORY® include:
These are not all the possible side effects of PONVORY®. For more information, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist. See “What is the most important information I should know about PONVORY®?”
Tell your doctor if you have any side effect that bothers you or that does not go away.
Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You are also encouraged to report side effects to the FDA: visit http://www.fda.gov/medwatch or call 1-800-FDA-1088. You may also report side effects to Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., at 1-800-JANSSEN (1-800-526-7736).
Trademarks are those of their respective owners.
This article is sponsored by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
1 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Newly Diagnosed. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed April 18, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/Newly-Diagnosed
2 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS Signs & Symptoms. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms
3 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. MS Emotional Changes. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Emotional-Changes
4 Patten SB, Marrie RA, Carta MG. Depression in multiple sclerosis. Int Rev Psychiatry. 2017;29(5):463-472. doi:10.1080/09540261.2017.1322555
5 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Intimacy and Sexuality in MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure-Intimacy-and-Sexuality.pdf
6 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Sexual Problems. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms/Sexual-Dysfunction
7 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Who Gets MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 1, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS/Who-Gets-MS
8 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Pregnancy and Reproductive Issues. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed March 14, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Living-Well-With-MS/Diet-Exercise-Healthy-Behaviors/Womens-Health/Pregnancy
9 National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Disease-Modifying Therapies for MS. National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Accessed February 28, 2022. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/NationalMSSociety/media/MSNationalFiles/Brochures/Brochure-The-MS-Disease-Modifying-Medications.pdf
10 PONVORY® [Prescribing Information]. Titusville, NJ: Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. April 2021.