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#003: 10 reasons to see a neurologist who specializes in MS

Today, we’re talking about why you’re best off seeing a neurologist who specializes in MS.

Neurology covers a wide range of diseases. If you want to get a rough overview of it, you can look it up on Wikipedia. So it is just not possible to dive deep into all these various topics of neurology and stay on track with the latest research outcome and recommendations. But a neurologist who focuses on multiple sclerosis can do so for sure.

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Table of Content

Short summary why a MS-specialist is key

Therefore, it is advisable to see a neurologist who specializes specifically in multiple sclerosis. This is also what the report „Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis“. The report represents the summary and evaluation of many studies that have been conducted on MS around the world. In addition to the guiding principle of taking action against the disease as quickly as possible with a disease-modifying therapy, the neurologist specialized in multiple sclerosis is also recommended. Because there is a lot happening in research around the disease. New findings are constantly being added. However, you can only benefit from this if your neurologist is familiar with it and can apply it immediately.

This includes the fact that a rapid change of the disease-modifying therapy is now recommended if this does not work for you.

Also the examinations of the current course of your disease can be performed and evaluated much better by a specialized neurologist.

A good place to find MS specialists is your national MS patient organization. Please check the international MS organization at Find MS support near you https://www.msif.org/living-with-ms/find-ms-support-near-you/.
There you can search by continent and country.

No. 1: Expertise

A specialized neurologist has in-depth knowledge and experience in the diagnosis and treatment of MS and ensures that you, as a patient, are properly assessed at each point in the course and receive personalized treatment.

He or she can better assess what symptomatic treatments you need based on experience and comparison with other patients. Especially with the disease of 1,000 faces, it is good if your treating neurologist not only knows three faces of MS, but treats several patients, depending on the size of the practice or clinic, perhaps up to hundreds, and is in regular exchange with other MS specialists.

No. 2: Early Diagnosis

Specialized neurologists are able to identify MS symptoms at an early stage, allowing for rapid intervention and potentially better treatment of the disease. After all, with MS, time is brain and several studies have shown that the long-term prognosis can be positively influenced by taking action against the disease at an early stage.

Since MS has similar symptoms to many other diseases, especially in the early stages, expertise is crucial. In my master’s program „Multiple Sclerosis Management“ we spent a whole module just on differential diagnosis. Because in addition to very clear cases, there are many patients who go undiagnosed for years or are misdiagnosed, which allows the disease to progress unhindered.

And so far it is hardly possible to reverse existing damage. The brain can rebuild and fall back on the neurological reserve to compensate for symptoms, but in the process this neurological reserve is used up bit by bit.

A false positive diagnosis is also crap, as it leads to unnecessary treatment with drugs that have no effect on the actual, as yet undiagnosed disease. In addition, the diagnosis of MS often leads to a strong psychological burden, especially in the early days.

No. 3: Treatment Options

An MS neurologist is up to date on the latest MS treatments, allowing her or him to address individual needs and necessities and recommend the most appropriate therapy.

Fortunately, there is now a wide range of medications from the different efficacy ranges. Further active substances are in phase-3 studies, in other words, on the edge of possible approval. A neurologist who specializes in MS can stay current and keep a good overview of the 20 or so approved course-modifying therapies. For a general neurologist, this is hardly possible.

When young patients make treatment decisions, they often want to have children. Not all therapies are suitable for this. If highly active MS is present, it is important to move quickly to an effective drug, which can slow down the MS, preferably stop it altogether.

There are also medications for symptoms of MS; again, an MS specialist usually knows better about the options.

The same applies to aids and therapeutic options such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy, just to name a few. Because with MS it is important to see the person as a whole and also to treat MS symptoms in order to keep the standard of living as high as possible or to increase it again.

No. 4: Personalized Care

An MS neurologist knows that each patient’s experience with the disease is unique. They can create personalized treatment plans that address individual symptoms, lifestyle and goals.

For a young woman, that may be to have children and maintain employment first, and then to consider the intercation of menopause and MS later.

An athlete, on the other hand, places special emphasis on continuing to play his or her sport without restriction.

Or traveling, be it for private or professional reasons, is in the foreground and a therapy that allows this without restrictions is necessary.

An MS specialist does not treat the general MS patient, but you as an individual with your wishes and ideas and your course.

No. 5: Disease Management

An MS neurologist has a comprehensive understanding of the disease process and can offer strategies to manage symptoms, minimize relapses and slow the progression of disability.

These include lifestyle recommendations in addition to the selection of disease-modifying therapy, which has been mentioned several times.

A healthy diet and exercise have a positive effect on the course of the disease. An MS specialist will know the latest studies on this and save you from going down the wrong path or following unnecessary strict diets that may not have any benefits.

More and more research is being done on the potential of exercise and how exercise programs can bring the immune system from the overreactions of autoimmunity to a normal level. And there are exercise programs for all stages of MS. You just have to know about them.

An MS specialist is also aware of such important aspects as stress management and good mental health, and he or she can give you tips on how to do that.

No. 6: Monitoring and Follow-up

Regular visits to an MS neurologist allow close monitoring of disease progression and ensure that treatment plans are adjusted in a timely manner as needed.

The gold standard is to see a neurologist once a quarter and also to use digital trackers to detect any gradual changes, allowing the doctor to respond even more quickly.

Of course, this is not always possible. But with a disease like MS, which takes place mostly in the shadows, especially at the beginning, frequent visits are highly recommended.

An MS specialist usually performs important examinations such as the 9-hole-peg-test, blood tests, a neurological examination, measuring the walking distance, contrast vision or other helpful tests. In total and in comparison over time, the results help the neurologist to decide whether something has to be changed in the preventive or symptomatic therapy.

No. 7: Clinical Trials and Research

An MS neurologist often has access to clinical trials and research opportunities that can provide patients with access to cutting-edge treatments and therapies that are not widely available.

This is true for drug therapies that may bring greater efficacy, but also for rehabilitation programs, physical education programs, nutritional studies, or studies of new biomarkers. For example, I participate in several study modules that feed into a large study. The aim is to be able to monitor MS better in order to make even faster and more valid decisions about treatment, keyword personalized medicine.

No. 8: Multidisciplinary Approach

Treatment of MS often requires collaboration with other healthcare professionals, such as neurourologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, and mental health specialists. A specialized neurologist can coordinate a multidisciplinary team to treat all aspects of the disease.

Ideally, all findings and examination results flow together and are then in turn available to the individual specialists as the basis of their treatment. For example, MS centers have discussion groups where neurologists and neuroradiologists meet to evaluate MRI images and how they have evolved over time in order to make precise treatment decisions.

No. 9: Emotional Support

Living with MS can be emotionally challenging. An MS neurologist is well equipped to provide emotional support and resources to patients and their families as she or he copes with the psychological impact of the disease.

This begins with gently communicating the diagnosis. Because MS experts know that living a near-normal life with MS is possible for a majority of patients today due to ever-improving treatment options and ever-increasing knowledge of healthy lifestyle choices. Of course, treatment options also depend on where you live and how your local health insurance is set up.

An MS specialist also knows what to ask for and how sensitive issues like incontinence or sexual dysfunction are, but at the same time how important their treatment is.

No. 10: Education and Empowerment

An MS neurologist can educate patients about their disease, treatment options and lifestyle changes. This allows patients to make informed decisions and take an active role in their own care.

Shared decision-making is becoming more prominent, as physicians know that an informed patient who consciously stands behind a decision will support it and be much more likely to adhere to recommendations.

Doctors appreciate this, because of course every doctor is happy when a patient can live well with his illness and continue to pursue his personal goals. After all, the motivation to become a doctor usually includes wanting to help people.

By the way, this is also my motivation and all the experts who take time out of their professional and private lives to come by for an interview on my podcast want exactly that. That you can live better with MS and benefit from all the knowledge and treatment options gained.

I hope I could convince you with the ten arguments to go to an MS neurologist. By the way, there is often the possibility to stay with your local neurologist and only go to an MS neurologist for important therapy decisions or for annual examinations. By the way, I traveled 200 km to my MS specialist Prof. Tjalf Ziemssen for 13 years, one year even 600 km and finally moved back to my home city so that I now have only a short journey of less than one hour to him by public transport.

If you live in a region where there are no or far too few MS neurologists, it is even more important that you yourself become an expert on your disease. This way, you can ask for specific treatments and examinations and also take advantage of all the possibilities that a healthy lifestyle offers.

See you soon and try to make the best out of your life,

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Nele Handwerker

Blogger & Patient Advocate

I show you how to make the best of your life with MS from family to career to hobbies. Thanks to science and research, a lot is possible nowadays.

Nele Handwerker


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