Layering a potentially lethal virus like COVID-19 onto a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) can seem daunting, but strengthening the relationship with your specialist may be key to getting through.
Dr. Derek Smith, a neurologist with the Ayer Neuroscience Institute’s Multiple Sclerosis Center, part of Hartford HealthCare, said staying in close contact with your provider can help you continue following your tailored medication and treatment guidelines to help keep the chronic illness manageable.
“People should continue taking their prescriptions, especially any immunotherapies. If they have questions, the best resource is their healthcare provider,” Dr. Smith said. “One of the things we did when the pandemic hit is we carefully analyzed all the different therapies we’re giving people and came up with a risk assessment that is sort of tailored to individual circumstances.”
People with MS, he continued, often require varied elements of care that could include diagnostic imaging, intravenous treatments and physical therapy. Medications are designed to target the immune system, which means people with MS should be more closely monitored during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In general, people with MS are not at any different risk from COVID than anybody else,” Dr. Smith said. “But, because we are using therapies that affect the immune system, there is concern in that regard. In addition, many people with MS are mobility impaired and now we’re further localized in terms of our travel.”
Hartford HealthCare’s Multiple Sclerosis Center team is also involved in national networks that are collecting information about the various risks that come with some MS treatments, including how they may decrease or increase patient risk of contracting COVID-19.
“We just don’t know yet,” he said of that risk. “MS centers throughout the country are sharing information in this regard and, hopefully, we’ll have a better idea soon. This will be very important when we come out of the other end of this.”
The Multiple Sclerosis Center, which has several locations across Connecticut providing care close to people’s homes, is accepting new patients and available for existing patients. For more information, click here.
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