Dr. Alexandra Filippakis is a board-certified neurologist and fellowship-trained Multiple Sclerosis (MS) specialist at Wentworth Health Partners Coastal Neurology Services.
Learn more about MS and the MS Clinic at Coastal Neurology Services in the following Q&A with Dr. Filippakis.
Q: What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
AF: MS is a complex autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Patients can experience symptoms including weakness, sensory disturbances, visual changes, impaired balance, difficulty walking, bowel/bladder/sexual dysfunction, fatigue, pain, depression, and changes in cognition and memory.
Q: How is MS diagnosed?
AF: MS is diagnosed by taking a careful history and performing a complete neurological examination, in addition to testing which may include an MRI, blood work, and lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
Q: How is MS treated?
AF: MS is treated with DMTs (disease-modifying medications) that “calm down” the immune system to prevent or slow down relapses and disability progression. Currently, there are about 20 FDA-approved DMTs for MS, with more treatments being introduced every year. MS specialists often prescribe medications and treatments for symptomatic relief of a neuropathic pain, bladder dysfunction, fatigue, cognitive changes, and depression.
Acute relapses are often treated with high-dose IV steroids. Vitamin D supplementation, smoking cessation, healthful diet and exercise. Rehab services including physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathologists, are also integral parts of a comprehensive treatment plan.
Q: What do you enjoy most about treating MS patients?
AF: MS is the most fulfilling subspecialty of neurology, both academically and personally. I get the opportunity to experience rapidly-evolving research and scientific breakthroughs that inform my treatment decisions. Because there are so many treatment options, I can offer several different therapies to each patient. Early diagnosis and treatment can truly change a patient’s disease course and offer hope for the future. I also find it rewarding to help patients cope with their diagnosis and to support them on their MS journey.
Q: What do specialty clinics like the MS clinic mean for patients?
AF: The MS Clinic at Wentworth Health Partners Coastal Neurology Services provides comprehensive care of the whole patient, focusing on managing disease activity, providing symptomatic relief, maximizing functioning, and promoting general wellness.
As an MS fellowship-trained neurologist, I have received extra post-graduate training in the field of MS and other related disorders and will customize a treatment plan that works for each patient. If patients are interested, they might have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. The most effective MS care requires a team-based approach, and patients may be referred to other specialists such as urologists, ophthalmologists, neuropsychologists, physiatrists, and pain management doctors.
Learn more about the Multiple Sclerosis Clinic at Wentworth Health Partners Coastal Neurology Services at coastalneurologyservices.org or call (603) 749-0913.
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