It has taken a long time for the medical community to recognize cognitive dysfunction in MS, a frustrating reality for many people who felt their concerns and complaints were ignored. Thankfully, researchers and clinicians have changed their views about cognition in MS and the result has been new strategies and treatment options.
There are currently two options when it comes to drug therapy for the treatment of cognitive symptoms. Some studies have shown that Aricept (donepezil) may provide some improvement for memory-related problems. Aricept is an FDA-approved drug prescribed for Alzheimer's disease. However, remember that Alzheimer's and cognitive dysfunction in MS are not related; they are different diseases.
Your second option is the disease-modifying therapies. They've been shown to reduce the number and severity of MS attacks. Starting Avonex, Betaseron, Copaxone, or Rebif early may help to prevent cognitive dysfunction.
The goal of cognitive rehabilitation therapy is to help an individual acquire the highest level of cognitive functioning possible. This is accomplished through treatment programs that focus on retraining strategies and teach skills that help individuals compensate.
Cognitive retraining employs two different strategies. The first, restoration, involves restoring cognitive skills in the same way you might rebuild a weakened muscle. Exercises, some done with computer programs, can help build cognitive skills such as attention, concentration, memory, and organization.
The second component of cognitive retraining, compensation, involves learning to use strategies and tools to cope with weaker areas. Strategies are designed for each patient that use her areas of strength to compensate for her weakened abilities. Learning to use these tools not only compensates for impaired ability, but may help to rebuild the skill itself. For example, regularly using a checklist may actually improve attention skills. Rehabilitation programs usually use a combination of restoration and compensatory techniques.