Common Fears MS Patients Have About Treatment

The most effective treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS), particularly the relapsing-remitting types, are disease-modifying medications. That's because these drugs can actually slow down the progression of MS and reduce the number of relapses a person experiences.

It's easy to see, then, why it's important to begin a regimen of disease-modifying treatment as soon as possible after finding out you have MS. If you're hesitating, though, it might help to know that you're not alone: Other folks have balked at taking MS drugs for various reasons. Perhaps you can relate to the typical fears that follow.

Doctor comforting patient

Fear of Needles

Many MS treatments are given intravenously, subcutaneously, or intramuscularly—in other words, through a needle inserted into a vein, fat tissue, or muscle. It's the most efficient way to get the medication into the body where it can start doing good. Whether needles really don't bother you or you're terrified of them, having a sharp object inserted into your skin probably isn't your idea of a good time. (By the way, there's a name for a severe fear of needles: trypanophobia.) Ask your healthcare provider or someone else who has had similar treatments for tips on dealing with needle negativity. It may be that simply having a friend along to distract you or learning a basic self-hypnosis technique will be enough to get you past your fear. It's also important to note that there are currently six oral therapeutic options to treat MS that can be considered.

Apprehension About Side Effects 

Who wants to feel worse while being treated for already being ill? Unfortunately, side effects are almost inevitable, especially with drugs powerful enough to treat MS. Most of them are minor and easy to treat, however. For example, you might have redness or tenderness around the injection site if you're on treatment that's given subcutaneously. A cool compress can combat these symptoms. When you first start taking certain MS medications, you may feel a bit like you're coming down with the flu. This is common and yucky, but short-lived. Once your body gets used to the medication, this side effect will go away. And remember, if any reaction you have to medication is so bothersome you can't tolerate it, your healthcare provider should be able to switch you to another medication, so don't hesitate to speak up. While this is understandable, it's important to know that side effects can usually be managed or reduced with specific strategies and careful monitoring.

Belief Something Better Will Come Along

New treatments for MS are being developed and studies are underway all the time, but it's important to understand that it takes a long time for any medication to become available to patients. It has to be proven safe, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, made in enough quantities to be distributed, and included for coverage by insurance. So while it's a good idea to stay on top of MS research, it could be to your disadvantage to wait around for a new drug. Remember, the sooner you begin treatment for MS, the more effective it will be. 

Cost of Treatment

There's no doubt about it: MS is an expensive illness to have, and the economic burden can sometimes be just as draining as the physical and mental toll. If money for your MS meds is an issue, know that there are resources to help you pay for treatment. For example, financial assistance is sometimes offered by medication manufacturers. Your healthcare provider and your local MS society chapter should be able to fill you in about this and other options.

Relying on Relapse Management

When you first find out you have MS, it's likely any relapses you have will be infrequent and mild. In fact, they may seem so easy to deal with, you'll think you can just ride them out or treat them with prescription medications or simple lifestyle modifications. Even if your symptoms are occasionally dramatic, such as loss of vision from optic neuritis, you may be able to get by with a short course of Solu-Medrol (a high-dose corticosteroid given intravenously). At this stage, it may be tempting to continue like this, dealing with symptoms as they come and enjoying symptom-free remission periods. However, allowing relapses to happen puts you at risk of developing a permanent disability. What's more, Solu-Medrol can have serious side effects. You're much better off working with your healthcare provider to make taking a disease-modifying medication an approach you can live with.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Remington G, Rodriguez Y, Logan D, Williamson C, Treadaway K. Facilitating medication adherence in patients with multiple sclerosis. Int J MS Care. 15(1):36–45. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2011-038

  2. Cerqueira JJ, Compston DAS, Geraldes R, et al. Time matters in multiple sclerosis: can early treatment and long-term follow-up ensure everyone benefits from the latest advances in multiple sclerosis?. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. 89(8):844-850. doi:10.1136/jnnp-2017-317509

  3. MedlinePlus. Methylprednisolone injection.

Additional Reading