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The Importance of Early Treatment: Considerations for Multiple Sclerosis Nurses

Perrin Ross, Amy

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: June 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 3 - p E1-E9
doi: 10.1097/JNN.0b013e3181a23ea9

The disease-modifying therapies available for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) differ in their efficacy, safety, and their mode and frequency of administration. Consequently, it has always been important for healthcare providers to understand the differences between the available therapies for MS. Recently, the role of the healthcare provider has become even more complex in light of novel and compelling clinical evidence demonstrating that early treatment of MS can delay long-term disease progression, directly impacting the recent trend toward earlier and more aggressive treatment. Patients are now being diagnosed with MS and treated at an earlier stage of the disease than ever before. As a result, early, accurate diagnosis and treatment have had a large impact on the role of the healthcare provider. This is in part due to the fact that patients are being treated at stages of disease during which symptoms may be very mild and subtle. The role of the nurse, in particular, has expanded not only in providing care and information to MS patients and their families but also in recognizing MS symptoms and assisting in the complicated task of early diagnosis. After early diagnosis, the nurse is then often faced with the complex task of rationalizing to the patient why they should undergo treatment during what is often an asymptomatic time, with the added difficulty of explaining that treatment will likely have manageable side effects. The aim of this review was to discuss the ever-evolving role of the nurse during the treatment of MS, with a focus on expanding the nurse's role in light of recent evidence demonstrating the benefits of early treatment.

As evidence mounts that clearly demonstrates the long-term benefits of early treatment, we have witnessed a change in clinical treatment approaches for patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). This article underscores the evidence supporting the relationship and positive impact on MS of early treatment with disease-modifying therapies and the evolving role of the nurse in the context of these treatment modalities.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to Amy Perrin Ross, APN MSN CNRN MSCN, at She is a neuroscience program coordinator at Loyola University Medical Center, Marywood, IL.

© 2009 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses