For most people with MS, treatment means long-term medication use. Even though most MS experts recommend continuing medication unless the side effects are unmanageable or the medication is not working or better treatment becomes available, many people do not continue their medication. They may decide to stop after taking it for a few weeks or months.
Taking medications for a long period of time can be difficult for anyone who has a chronic disease. People who have MS may find it especially challenging. Here are some reasons why some people stop their MS medication:
Not experiencing symptoms: MS is an unpredictable disease. Different people experience MS symptoms differently, and over time these symptoms might even change or fluctuate. Some people have not experienced very many symptoms or have had symptoms that went away. They don't see why they should continue or start treatment if they're not experiencing symptoms.
Fear of needles: Most MS medications are given as injections. Many people hate needles and experience anxiety over injecting the medication themselves.
Fear of side effects: Many people may hesitate to take their medication because they fear it may make them feel worse.
MS symptoms: MS itself can make it even more difficult to adhere to treatment. People with MS may have physical issues that make injecting medication, taking pills, or even opening pill bottles difficult. These issues can include coordination problems, tremors, spasticity (involuntary muscle spasms), fatigue, and vision problems. Cognitive impairment and memory issues in people with MS may also make it difficult to remember when and how to take medication.
Expectations and concerns about treatment: MS is a complicated disease. People with MS may decide to stop their medication because of lack of information about the disease, unrealistic expectations about treatment, concerns about medication, or feeling hopelessness about having MS.
The good news is that many of these issues can be addressed - learn how in the next topic, "How to stick with MS treatment."
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