Glucocorticoid treatment of multiple sclerosis

Handb Clin Neurol. 2014:122:455-64. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-52001-2.00020-0.


Glucorticorticoids have both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties and both synthetic and natural glucocorticoid medications have been used to treat a number of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions, including the management of acute multiple sclerosis (MS) attacks. Many of the studies supporting the use of this approach to MS treatment have important limitations. Nevertheless, on balance, the data seem to support the notion that a brief glucocorticoid treatment regimen (~2 weeks) hastens recovery from an acute MS flare and that this treatment, in general, is well tolerated. However, such treatment does not seem to alter the final degree of recovery from the MS attack. Among the practice community, even within MS centers, there seems to be a general belief that the selection of the optimal agent, route of administration, and the duration of therapy can be made on the basis of personal experience and/or theoretic considerations. As a result, currently, there are a variety of idiosyncratic regimens (often vigorously defended), which are commonly used to treat patients. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that the best route of administration, the optimal dose and duration of treatment, and the preferred agent or agents have yet to be firmly established. Moreover, although it may well turn out that some of these factors are more important than others, the best current evidence for the efficacy of glucocorticoid treatment in MS, by far, comes from the optic neuritis treatment trial, which used high-dose intravenous methylprednisolone for the first 3 days followed by an 11-day course of low-dose oral prednisone.

Keywords: ACTH; acute attacks; acute episodes; corticosteroids; dexamethasone; methylprednisolone; prednisone; therapy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Multiple Sclerosis / drug therapy*
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Time
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Glucocorticoids