Multiple sclerosis is an incapacitating disease affecting your brain and spinal cord. In this condition, the immune function is altered, and it attacks the protective sheath of your nerves. As nerves are responsible for transmitting information between brain and body, their injury disrupts this communication.

Signs and symptoms depend on the extent of nerve injury and the nerves that are affected. While there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatment options are available to speed up your recovery, manage symptoms, and modify the course of symptoms.

Baclofen is one of the common medicines used to manage pain and spasms related to Multiple Sclerosis.

The article talks about multiple sclerosis and how Baclofen can help.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder where your immune cells wrongly attack your own body’s healthy cells, causing their destruction. 

In MS, the immune cells attack the cells sheath covering your nerves, protecting the nerve fibers from any injury. This sheath also helps to communicate signals efficiently and quickly.

In places where the sheath sustains damage or disappears, a scar appears, known as sclerosis. So, multiple sclerosis is multiple scars on the protective sheath of your nerves.

These mainly affect the:

  • Cerebellum, which controls balance and coordinates movement
  • Optic nerves
  • Brain stem
  • Spinal cord

When multiple lesions develop, nerve fibers are damaged. All this alters the flow of electrical impulses from the brain to the target tissue. The affected part thus cannot carry out its normal functions.

Causes

The exact reason for MS is unknown, but experts believe some factors may increase the risk of getting MS, such as:

  • Age between 2o to 40 years
  • Being a woman
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Habits such as smoking
  • Exposure to Epstein-Barr virus or human herpes virus
  • Vitamin B12 and/or vitamin D deficiency
  • Teenage obesity

Symptoms & Signs

As nerves affect your brain and spinal cord that control all your body actions, symptoms can involve any body part.

Some common symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Tingling and numbness, especially in the arms and legs
  • An electric shock-like sensation on moving the neck (Lhermitte’s sign)
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Constipation and bowel incontinence
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms and spasticity
  • Sexual problems such as low libido
  • Blurred or double vision, total or partial loss of vision, and other vision problems
  • Depression and emotional changes
  • Problem with maintaining balance or gait problems
  • Muscle pain or stiffness

In rare cases, the following symptoms may be present:

  • Hearing loss
  • Breathing problems
  • Speech disorders
  • Headaches
  • Itching
  • Seizures
  • Swallowing problems

Complications

Multiple sclerosis increases the risk of:

  • Loss of mobility
  • Reduced activity
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Symptoms can affect the social life
  • Increased sensitivity to heat

Treatment And Medication

As discussed before, there is no cure for MS. On a brighter note, many treatment options are available that can relieve symptoms, reduce the severity and frequency of relapses, and even slow the progression of your condition.

Drugs That Can Slow Down the Progression

Disease-modifying therapies alter how your immune function works, and the Food and Drug Administration recommends them for the relapsing symptoms.

Options include:

  • Injectables: Interferon beta-1b, interferon beta 1-a, peginterferon beta-1a, and glatiramer acetate
  • Oral medicines: Fingolimod, mavenclad, teriflunomide, dimethyl fumarate, and mayzent
  • Infused medicines: Mitoxantrone, natalizumab, alemtuzumab, and ocrelizumab 

Drugs for Exacerbation Symptoms

 These medicines are used when the symptoms become severe. Some common options include:

  • Corticosteroids such as prednisone and methylprednisolone
  • Dalfampridine for problems with balance and mobility
  • Antispasmodics or muscle relaxants
  • Donepezil for cognitive changes

Alternative and Complementary Therapies

The following approaches may help with different MS problems:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage and heat treatment
  • Stress management
  • Exercises
  • Avoiding smoking
  • A healthy diet including vegetables, fruits, and fiber

Some other options that may help are:

  • Physical therapy to restore maximum movement
  • Swallowing and speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy to improve mental and physical function
  • Cognitive rehabilitation for problems in perception and thinking

How Does Baclofen Help?

Baclofen is a muscle relaxant that inhibits the action of chemicals on nerves and the brain responsible for the pain sensation and those that cause muscle spasms.

It works by combating the release of excitatory chemicals in between the nerve ending, providing pain relief. Baclofen can also affect the calcium channels, preventing spams and twitching. 

All in all, it aids in preventing nerve reflex signaling responsible for pain and spasm.

Use & Dosage

Baclofen is available as a solution and tablet to be taken orally. The usual dose is three times a day or to be taken as directed by the physician.

Read the patient information leaflet and take all the precautions as mentioned.

Dose

The ideal adult dose of Baclofen for muscle spasms or pain is between 5-20 mg three times a day. Your doctor may increase the dose gradually every three days if required. 

The maximum dose is 80 mg per day, taken as four doses of 20 mg.

The use of the medicine is not studied in children below 12 years of age and thus shouldn’t be used by them.

The dosage and the drug form may vary with age, weight, the severity of symptoms, and the existing medical condition of an individual. Therefore, please take this combination as recommended by your doctor.

Some other things to note are:

  • Baclofen can be used for both the short-term or long-term. Take medicine as advised and follow all the instructions carefully
  • Do not stop taking medicine suddenly or lower the dose on your own
  • Do not take a higher dose or longer than is advised

Some symptoms of overdose include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • Breathlessness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bein unconscious for a long time (coma)
  • Seizures

If You Miss the Dose

  • If you happen to miss a dose of Baclofen, take the missed dose as soon as you remember. 
  • However, if it is almost time for the next dose, do not take the missed dose and continue with your next scheduled dose. 
  • Do not take a double dose to compensate for the missed dose.

Precautions

Inform your physician if you have the following conditions before starting Baclofen:

  • Severe liver or kidney disorders
  • Psychosis or mental illness
  • Nervous system problems
  • Blood clot or stroke
  • Epilepsy

Talk to your doctor before taking Baclofen if:

  • You are taking any other medication, are pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning a pregnancy. 
  • You are allergic to Baclofen or any of its ingredients or have any other allergies.
  • You are allergic to any other medication.
  • You are taking any other drugs, over-the-counter medicines, herbal products, or nutritional supplements.

Side effects

More common side effects include:

  • Constipation
  • Confusion
  • Increased urge to urinate
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trembling, clumsiness, unsteadiness, or other muscle problems
  • False sense of well being
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Pounding heartbeat
  • Swelling of the ankles
  • Unusual excitement
  • Stomach or abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Tingling numbness of feet or hands
  • Stuffy nose
  • Weight gain
  • Unexplained muscle stiffness
  • Speech problems such as slurred speech

Rare side effects include:

  • Chest pain
  • Mood changes or depression
  • Hearing or seeing things that are not present
  • Dark or bloody urine
  • Fainting
  • Skin itching or rash
  • Buzzing or ringing in the ears

This is not a complete list of side effects, and others may occur. Please consult your doctor to know more about other possible side effects.

Interactions

Besides, certain medicines may interfere with their working and thus might not be safe to take them together. Some of them are:

  • Sleeping pills
  • Medicines for anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder
  • Opioid medicines
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Seizure medication
  • Sleeping pills
  • Hypertensive

This may not be a comprehensive list, and other drugs may interact with Baclofen. Please inform your doctor if you are taking any of the medicines listed above.

Other Precautions

Besides, this medicine may cause drowsiness. So, avoid driving or operating heavy machinery while on Baclofen. Alcohol may enhance the effect of drowsiness, and its use should thus be avoided while taking this medicine.


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