World Multiple Sclerosis day, May 30th, 2022

 Multiple Sclerosis: Your Questions Answered

We speak to two experts who discuss a range of topics around MS, including the impact that COVID-19 has had on MS patients, and the affect the condition has on numerous physical and emotional aspects of everyday life.

Dr. Bassem Yamout, Professor of Neurology at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, addresses the importance of an holistic approach to MS care, in which the patient plays an active role in their treatment pathway, and Dr. Khaled Fahim, Medical Director Gulf, Merck Serono Middle East FZ Ltd., looks at some of the psychological implications of MS, as well as exploring the role that digital health tech has had in patient engagement.


1. How can the HCPs engage more with the community of MS?

Patients’ understanding of their disease and engagement in their care and disease are especially important in chronic and complex diseases such as MS.

MS patients should be involved in discussions and encouraged to share their considerations, based on which decisions that will affect their life situation for years ahead will be made. Effective treatments can significantly slow the progression of MS and increase quality of life of MS patients but are all associated with side effects of varying severity.

It is crucial, therefore, that a balance between clinical benefits and probability of side effects is considered, not only by clinicians but by patients as well. One way to engage your patients in their treatment is to make sure you consider what matters to them.

To achieve the desired impact on people affected by MS, HCP must promote comprehensive, coordinated care that addresses MS holistically, prevents unnecessary complications and equips individuals and families with the training and tools they need to manage complex challenges.

2. What is the difference between MS and Muscular Dystrophy?

MD and MS have some symptoms in common, namely the motor weakness, but are two different diseases in the way they affect the body.

MD affects the muscles that promote movement of the patient, while MS affects the central nervous system resulting in neurological symptoms.

3. What are some of the complications that an MS patient might face/suffer?

Here are some complications that an MS patient might suffer:

  • Social issues such as loss of job, social stigma or divorce
  • Bladder and bowel problems.
  • Mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.
  • Decreased vision.
  • Cognitive impairment.
  • Sensory impairment.
  • Mobility limitation.
  • Treatment side-effects

4. Can I plan for a family if I am diagnosed with MS?

If you are a woman with MS, studies have shown that your disease shouldn’t affect your chance of getting pregnant.

Talk to your neurologist, gynecologist or MS nurse as soon as you decide that you want to try for a baby. They will help you manage your MS symptoms while you try to get pregnant, which could take some time. They will also look at your full medical history and are likely to recommend that you are up to date with all your vaccinations. Your doctor will also advise you regarding your MS drugs, if you are taking any. There are some MS drugs that you must not take when you are pregnant. Remember! You should continue to use contraception until your doctor tells you it is safe to stop.

Responses by Dr. Bassem Yamout, Professor of neurology at the American University of Beirut Medical Center




1. What causes MS ?

Although the actual cause of MS is not clear, there are some risk factors for having it. Those factors include family history, smoking, and low Vitamin D levels.

2. Long-term effects of Covid-19 on MS patients?

While there is no direct evidence linking MS and being a COVID-19 “long hauler” (someone who experiences long-term effects)

3. Can you take the COVID-19 vaccination while you are taking your MS medications?

COVID-19 vaccines are not live vaccines. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.

Please speak with your doctor about when you should get a COVID-19 vaccine. Your doctor will know how to adapt your vaccination schedule to your treatment plan.

Getting vaccinated is one of many steps that you can take to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.

4. Does the digital infrastructure developed by UAE help increase the engagement between doctors and patients?

There can be a gap in how physicians are accustomed to providing information and how patients are accustomed to receiving information.

Many patients prefer a different type of communication with constant connection for questions about their disease or treatment with fast feedback about their clinical case or other data as soon as possible, so providing patient portals where they can view their own results can be very helpful.

Telemedicine is now very popular as a format and can work well for providing feedback on results more quickly than is possible with in-person appointments.

5. Could an MS patient’s psychological status affect their condition?

Depression and/or anxiety may worsen the patient’s status and should be treated. In most cases, it can be effectively managed with a combination of antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy as it focuses on shifting thoughts and behaviors that may contribute to emotional distress.

6. Is MS a deadly disease?

MS may be a lifelong condition, but it’s not a deadly one and people with MS tend to live a long time. One large study found that on average, folks with MS lived to age 76, seven years shorter than people without it.

7. Will pregnancy affect my MS?

How being pregnant may affect your MS can depend on your disease activity, but generally, your neurologist might recommend that you wait until your disease is under control with treatment before you try for a baby. Choosing the right treatment plan for you is very important.

8. What are my MS treatment options as a woman wanting to get pregnant?

If you’re taking an MS drug, your neurologist will discuss any possible risks to your baby and help you decide if you should continue with your treatment to help prevent relapses. If you have mild to moderate relapsing MS, your neurologist might say that you can stop taking your MS drug while you try to get pregnant, and continue to monitor your MS. Some MS drugs can be taken while you try to get pregnant. You may need to change your MS drug if you’re taking one that cannot be taken during pregnancy.

Responses by: Dr. Khaled Fahim, Medical Director Gulf, Merck Serono Middle East FZ Ltd.

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