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The Desi Roth Harrison Center for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system. MS interrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body and can cause vision loss, difficulty walking and debilitating fatigue, among other things. Multiple sclerosis typically starts between the ages of 28 and 35, but people of any age can be affected. There has been a revolution in our ability to treat MS in the past 25 years, and due to advances in science, we now have the ability to prevent physical disability in patients living with MS.

While the cause of MS is still unknown, one thing is for sure — it requires proactive care to manage its symptoms and keep flare-ups at bay.

2.3 million

More than 2 million people worldwide live with Multiple Sclerosis.

At Ochsner, we understand that the symptoms of MS can vary greatly from patient to patient, which is why our treatment plans consists of coordinated and comprehensive care tailored to fit each patient’s needs. The Ochsner Multiple Sclerosis Center focuses on patient wellness and includes routine counseling on vitamin supplementation, diet, exercise and stress reduction. Ochsner works hard to translate leading-edge research into more sophisticated treatments for patients with MS. Patients travel to the Ochsner Multiple Sclerosis Center from all over the Gulf South for advanced immunotherapies and treatment of symptoms. We also offer on-site mental health services and yoga classes designed specifically for MS patients.

Ochsner provides advanced care for multiple sclerosis at two locations in New Orleans.

Once patients are established with Ochsner, they will be able to receive care such as imaging, infusions and physical therapy in the Ochsner location nearest their home. Virtual visits with specialists at the New Orleans locations are also available, providing all the expertise of our center from the comfort of your own home.

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your immune system attacks your central nervous system. That causes damage to the myelin sheath, which is the fatty tissue that protects your nerve fibers. Without that protection, your nerve cells become damaged and scarred in multiple areas, which is why the condition is called multiple sclerosis. When your nerves are damaged, your central nervous system can’t process information correctly. For example, if multiple sclerosis damages your optic nerve, your brain can’t tell your eyes to do their job the way they used to, and you may experience vision problems.

Scientists are still studying what might cause multiple sclerosis. Almost 1 million people in the United States have the condition. Multiple sclerosis can affect anyone, but women are three times more likely than men to have multiple sclerosis, and white people of northern European ancestry are at a higher risk than people of other races and ancestries. While it is commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 50, multiple sclerosis is also found in children and seniors.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary, which is why individualized treatment plans are so important. Some of the more common multiple sclerosis symptoms include:

  • Chronic pain

  • Dizziness

  • Fatigue

  • Muscle spasms, especially in the legs

  • Numbness or tingling

  • Problems with your bowel or urinary functions

  • Tightness or squeezing in your chest, which is sometimes called the “MS hug”

  • Vision problems, such as blurry vision, vision loss or eye pain

  • Weakness or problems walking

The four stages or types of multiple sclerosis are defined by the disease’s progression:

  • Clinically isolated syndrome is when a patient has neurologic episodes similar to multiple sclerosis but does not meet the criteria for full diagnosis. Not all patients with clinically isolated syndrome develop full-blown multiple sclerosis.

  • Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is the most common type of multiple sclerosis. Patients will have attacks of neurologic symptoms that then go into remission. For many patients, these episodes will get worse over time.

  • Secondary progressive multiple sclerosis is diagnosed when a patient with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis continues to experience worsening neurologic function and increased disability.

  • Primary progressive multiple sclerosis occurs in about 15% of patients. Patients with this type of multiple sclerosis get worse from the onset of diagnosis, without early remissions.

Ochsner specialists help patients manage every stage of their disease, whether it progresses or stays about the same for years.

There is no one treatment for multiple sclerosis. Ochsner provides coordinated and comprehensive care for patients with multiple sclerosis and related conditions, such as:

  • Neuromyelitis optica — inflammation of the eye nerves and spinal cord

  • Optic neuritis — swelling in the eye that damages the optic nerve

  • Spasticity — muscle stiffness that can cause pain and difficulties with speech and movement

Ochsner offers the latest infusion therapies for multiple sclerosis, and we work with patients to address every symptom, leaving no stone unturned. While multiple sclerosis symptoms can range from mild to severe, most can be successfully managed with strategies that include:

Ochsner also offers leading-edge clinical trials, providing access to promising treatments patients wouldn’t otherwise receive.

Rehabilitation is an important component of comprehensive, quality health care for patients at all stages of multiple sclerosis. Our programs help patients improve or maintain their ability to perform effectively and safely at home and work.

At Ochsner, we take the time to listen to patients. Our average follow-up appointment time is 40 minutes, double the time of typical neurology appointments. This allows us to address not just details of symptom management but of social and family support and adaptive needs.

Living with multiple sclerosis isn’t always easy, which is why Ochsner helps patients find a holistic approach to care, including:

We also assist patients in finding community resources, such as multiple sclerosis support groups and multiple sclerosis-friendly exercise classes.

You are not alone facing the challenges of multiple sclerosis. Ochsner has multiple sclerosis-specific social workers and case managers to help you and your family cope with new and ongoing needs throughout the course of your disease. In addition to counseling services, we provide:

  • Connections to local, state and national resources for multiple sclerosis patients

  • Driving evaluations

  • Financial assistance

  • Help figuring out insurance and employer benefits, such as Family and Medical Leave Act paperwork

  • Help with needed modifications to your home or vehicle

  • Reduced prescription drug costs through the Ochsner Specialty Pharmacy

  • Transportation services

Our insurance experts will work with you to tackle issues that are unique to multiple sclerosis patients. If needed, we can help you find financial assistance to offset the costs of treatments and medications for people with and without insurance.


Even after multiple sclerosis has advanced, two-thirds of all patients remain able to walk. Many patients will need assistance from a device such as a cane, and some may choose to use a wheelchair for longer distances.

Research shows that multiple sclerosis does not impact fertility or cause miscarriages. However, pregnancy may amplify certain symptoms of your condition, such as fatigue and balance. You also may need to stop taking medications before or during pregnancy. Women should discuss family planning with their neurologist.

Early treatment for multiple sclerosis can improve your long-term health, slow the progression of the disease and irreversible damage, and reduce the number of relapses you experience. It is important to start following your physician’s treatment plan as soon as you are diagnosed, whether you are 25 or 45.

Most people with multiple sclerosis do work, and there are federal and state protections to assist you in the workplace if you need additional accommodations. People with multiple sclerosis can also work out. In fact, exercise is important for the management of multiple sclerosis symptoms. And most multiple sclerosis patients lead fulfilling lives and enjoy their favorite activities and friends.

While nothing is assured with any medical condition, the median life expectancy for people with multiple sclerosis is 76. This means half of multiple sclerosis patients live well into their 80s and beyond. As advances in treatment continue to improve, so will life expectancy for many patients without other significant health issues.

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Map of Ochsner-affiliated facilities that provide services related to The Desi Roth Harrison Center for Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

The Desi Roth Harrison Center for Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Locations

Ochsner Medical Center – New Orleans
1514 Jefferson Highway
New Orleans, LA 70121
  • Open 24/7
Ochsner Baptist - A Campus of Ochsner Medical Center
2700 Napoleon Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70115
  • Open 24/7