Multiple Sclerosis & Autoimmune Disorders

In neurological autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Guillain-Barré syndrome and transverse myelitis, the body turns on itself. The lack of control people feel as their immune system attacks their nervous system is often compounded by frustration, as these disorders can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms may come and go, disappearing for months at a time. Some people can go years with no clear diagnosis or treatment plan.

Each year, experts at the Indiana University Health Neuroscience Center treat more than 1,200 patients with MS and other neurological autoimmune disorders. People living with confirmed and not-yet-diagnosed disorders can be confident with our expertise. Our neurologists, neurosurgeons and physical medicine specialists collaborate to provide multidisciplinary, personalized care. With advanced skills and subspecialty training, our specialists are recognized experts for second opinions and difficult-to-diagnose cases.

Currently, there is no single test to diagnose MS. Instead, MS and other autoimmune disorders are often diagnosed by eliminating other conditions. Physicians perform a thorough neurological exam and take a detailed patient history. Because diagnosis can be complicated, physician expertise is essential.

At the IU Health Neuroscience Center, our neurologists rely on their extensive experience and clinical skills to make accurate diagnoses. They use the latest neurodiagnostic tools to aid diagnosis in more challenging and vague cases. Diagnostic tools include:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Spinal tap
  • Evoked potentials. Electrical tests that measure how fast nerve signals travel from the brain to the eyes, spinal cord and brainstem.

There is no cure for MS, Guillain-Barré or transverse myelitis, but treatment can effectively manage symptoms and reduce the severity of attacks. In many people, medicine can delay disease progression.

Treatments

Our autoimmune specialists offer advanced treatment options, including:

  • Corticosteroid injections. Corticosteroid injections can reduce inflammation and lessen the severity of MS flare-ups.
  • Intravenous gamma globulins. Gamma globulins are a kind of blood plasma protein that help the body fight infections. In patients with autoimmune disorders, gamma globulin treatment can temporarily boost the body’s immune system and help reduce the severity and duration of attacks.
  • Plasmapheresis. Plasmapheresis removes harmful antibodies from a person’s blood. It is an effective treatment for Guillain-Barré syndrome and is being investigated as a treatment for MS. In plasmapheresis, a person’s blood is removed (similar to dialysis) and a machine separates the plasma from the blood cells. The blood cells are mixed with new, healthy plasma (usually synthetic) and returned to the body.

Clinical Trials

IU Health Neuroscience Center gives patients access to the newest therapies through clinical trials. The IU Health Neuroscience Center has pioneered several breakthrough MS studies, including one that led to the approval of the first oral immunotherapy for MS and another that led to the approval of a new drug to improve walking in patients with MS. Through these trials and additional ongoing clinical research, we are helping advance the understanding of autoimmune disorders and paving the way to new treatments and therapies.

Find more information about clinical trials through the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CTSI).