Interferon Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease which affects the nervous system, particularly the protective sheaths around the nerve bundles called myelin. When these nerves are impeded, the messages sent to the brain and spinal cord become all jumbled up creating a variety of symptoms like weakness, impaired cognitive function, intolerance to heat, tingling or numbness and much more.

For quite a while, the only thing that could be done was treat the symptoms but now there are different drug therapies which help in treating the underlying cause of those symptoms. Interferon therapy is one of these that can decrease the incidence and severity of health relapses when symptoms flare up.

Early Starting is Key

Interferon can be tough for many MS patients, especially during those times when remission occurs and symptoms go away. The key to interferon therapy is to start early on like immediately after a definitive diagnosis. If it is started after later after some of the symptoms have degraded your health, it will not be as effective.

There are several interferon treatments for MS and the most effective, Avonex, Betaseron and Rebif, are all medications you take via an injection. That means you must become adept and lose the squeamishness of giving yourself a shot. Each of these drugs has different requirements but Rebif and Betaseraon are injected just under the skin while the other Avonex is injected into a muscle.

Side Effects

While giving yourself an injection is likely not going to be your favorite treatment, it does give you a sense of empowerment, a feeling that you are taking charge of your health for the better. Of course, there are some side effects to this interferon treatment as there would be with anything else. The most common of these side effects are muscle aches, fever, chills, sleep problems and even slight tremors.

There are some simple pain relievers and even prednisone which can help you tolerate the side effects. Over time, you might notice that you are experiencing fewer side effects as your body becomes accustomed to the interferon. In some people, they have no side effects at all. Some doctors may try to start you off slowly with low doses of interferon and slowly increase the dosage so that your body acclimates to it, thereby greatly reducing the bodys reaction to it.

In addition to the side effects listed above, you may experience some discomfort at the interferon injection site. Because several of the drugs are injected just under the skin, subcutaneously, there is more sensitivity simply because it is so close to the surface. With the intramuscular injections, there are usually few problems.

Many people become well-practiced in giving themselves shots so that they eventually do not notice any minor injection site discomfort.

Self-Injection Tips

There are a few tips you can try when injecting yourself with interferon to reduce to side effects and discomfort. First of all, some people ice the injection site briefly, then swab it with alcohol and then inject the medication. This reduces the pinched or stinging feeling that some people get.

And because you have to clean the injection site area before you administer yourself the medication, it is advised by some doctors to take your bath or shower first as part of your routine before the injection or at least swab the area with an alcohol swab generously. In addition, by taking an acetaminophen or your preferred pain reliever at the same time as your injection, you could stem off some of the side effects before they even occur.