Oxidative stress (OS), when oxidative forces outweigh endogenous and nutritional antioxidant defenses, contributes to the pathophysiology of multiple sclerosis (MS). Evidence of OS is found during acute relapses, in active inflammatory lesions, and in chronic, longstanding plaques. OS results in both ongoing inflammation and neurodegeneration. Antioxidant therapies are a rational strategy for people with MS with all phenotypes and disease durations. PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To understand the function of OS in health and disease, to examine the contributions of OS to MS pathophysiology, and to review current evidence for the effects of selected antioxidant therapies in people with MS (PwMS) with a focus on lipoic acid (LA). RECENT FINDINGS: Studies of antioxidant interventions in both animal and in vivo models result in reductions in serum markers of OS and increases in levels and activity of antioxidant enzymes. Antioxidant trials in PwMS, while generally underpowered, detect short-term improvements in markers of OS and antioxidant defenses, and to a lesser extent, in clinical symptoms (fatigue, depression). The best evidence to date is a 2-year trial of LA in secondary progressive MS which demonstrated a significant reduction of whole-brain atrophy and trend toward improvement in walking speed. Antioxidant therapy is a promising approach to treat MS across the spectrum and duration of disease. Rigorous and well-powered trials are needed to determine their therapeutic benefits.
Keywords: Antioxidant; Lipoic acid; Multiple sclerosis; Neurodegeneration; Neurological disease; Neurology.