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Plasma Exchange for MS

October 4, 2016

Plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, is a way to "clean" your blood. It works sort of like kidney dialysis. During the treatment, plasma -- the liquid part of your blood -- gets replaced with plasma from a donor or with a plasma substitute.

People with some forms of multiple sclerosis use plasma exchange to manage sudden, severe attacks, sometimes called relapses or flare-ups. Their plasma could have certain proteins that are attacking their own body. When you take out the plasma, you get rid of those proteins, and symptoms may get better.

Some side effects may occur. During plasma exchange, your blood pressure is lower than usual. This can make you feel weak, dizzy, or nauseous. The trick is to drink lots of water in the days before your treatment, as that can help prevent these symptoms.

The best candidates for plasma exchange include:

  • RRMS Patients
  • MS Patients that are men
  • Patients with Marburg variant MS
  • A patient receiving the treatment within 20 days of first sign of symptoms

Simpler, less costly treatments often work for MS, so your doctor will probably try those first. For a severe MS attack, your doctor will probably prescribe high doses of anti-inflammatory steroids. If that doesn't relieve your symptoms, then plasma exchange is a short-term option.

Plasma exchange hasn't been shown to help primary progressive or secondary progressive MS.