MS news notes: Vaccines, migraines, eye-tracking technology

Columnist Ed Tobias comments on the week's top MS news

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by Ed Tobias |

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Welcome to “MS News Notes,” a column where I comment on multiple sclerosis (MS) news stories that caught my eye last week. Here’s a look at what’s been happening:

Vaccines pose no unusual risk of MS hospitalization, study says

It’s time for me to get my seasonal flu shot, as I’ve done for decades. This year, I’ll be adding the latest COVID-19 vaccine to my list, as well as a vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus.

The MS News Today story “No greater risk of hospitalization found after vaccines in MS in study” reports on a nationwide study in France involving over 100,000 people, that “found no association between vaccination and the risk of hospitalization due to MS flare-ups.”

Researchers studied seven categories of vaccines, including DTPPHi (diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, pertussis, and Haemophilus influenzae), hepatitis B, influenza, Pneumococcal, Meningococcus, and measles, mumps, and rubella. The last category was for other vaccines, specifically hepatitis A, tuberculosis, varicella, and varicella-zoster. COVID-19 vaccines were not part of the study.

“The only exception [to no increased risks] was the pneumococcal vaccine with a 90-day risk window, which was associated with a 1.6 times increased risk of MS relapses requiring hospitalization,” the story notes. Researchers called that a “small risk.” They added that “given the number of vaccine subtypes available, further studies are needed to confirm these results.”

The researchers noted that “immunization by vaccines of the entire population is crucially important for public health.”

I’ve never had a serious reaction to a vaccine, but I realize that some people shy away from them. This study adds evidence to my belief that, for most people, the benefits of most vaccines outweigh their risks.

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Do you have migraines and MS? You’re not alone

I was surprised by what’s reported in the story “About 1 in 4 MS patients experience migraines: Review study.” I do a lot of scanning of what people are talking about in MS social media groups, and migraines is not a subject I see very often. Yet this study says people with MS are about twice as likely to have migraines as the general population.

Researching this further, I found a 2020 review study that said about 30% of people with MS suffer from migraines, which was higher than the 12% estimated prevalence in the general population.

Do you frequently have migraines? Did you have them prior to your MS diagnosis or after? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Developing eye-tracking technology to gauge MS progression

A technology called ETNA, for Eye Tracking Neurological Assessment, is being developed to better track MS progression. Details of this are reported in the story “Innodem, Novartis agree to continue developing eye-tracking technology.”

ETNA is an artificial intelligence application that tracks eye movements to measure disease severity and cognitive status in people with MS. It can run on a home tablet, and its designers say it could also allow a patient to be assessed in a neurologist’s waiting room before an appointment.

“We believe that remote self-testing could improve the efficiencies of the healthcare system and extend this capability to people living with MS residing in rural areas who cannot easily access a specialist,” said Marc Reeves, co-founder and chief business officer of Innodem Neurosciences, which signed a multiyear agreement with Novartis Canada to continue developing the digital biomarker eye-tracking technology.

ETNA hasn’t yet been approved by government regulators, but it has been granted breakthrough device designation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which could help to speed up its development, review, and approval in the U.S. In Canada, the developers plan to launch a pilot project at up to 15 clinical sites aimed at gaining government approval and then commercialization.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Susan T Stiffler avatar

Susan T Stiffler

I have had migraine headaches since I was 20. I was diagnosed with MS when I was 29. When I was 25 I went through three straight months of terrible migraines. They were so bad I lost between 20 and 25 lbs. I have continued to have migraines. I have also had a headache on my right temple that goes behind my ear that has been going on 24/7 every single day for the past 29 years!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Susan,

I'm so sorry to hear of your migraine pain. Do you think your headaches are connected to your MS?

Ed

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Marcia Wilson avatar

Marcia Wilson

An interesting article regarding migraines. I was diagnosed with MS in 2006, at age 49. I have used Copaxone (1 year), Gilenya (8 months) and Rebif for the remainder of time since diagnosis. I comment on the DMD's because I developed ocular migraines, in 2010. Sporadic at first, they occurred while I was at work, which I attributed to laptop and workstation screen use. I retired in 2018 and hoped that the migraines would disappear. While they haven't completely stopped, I can now identify when they are going to hit, as well as noticing that they last now about :15 minutes and then disappear. It does seem to be related to excessive laptop screen use - which has reduced, but not completely ceased, since leaving the work force. Also, taking a regular-strength Tylenol seems to help....but none of the other OTC products work. I've no idea why that happens.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Marcia,

Thanks for sharing all of that. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some sort of connection to the excessive laptop use you mention. Has your neurologist weighed in with an opinion?

Ed

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John Wiltshire avatar

John Wiltshire

I had migraines from my mid-teens through to my late twenties. Throughout this time, the migraines were increasing in intensity.

Then they just stopped! This was about the time that my first MS symptom (footdrop) developed!

John

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi John,

That's certainly interesting. I'm glad they stopped and I wonder what the MS connection might be. Does your neurologist have an opinion?

Ed

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William Landes avatar

William Landes

On vaccines, what is the status for a replacement for EVUSHELD? Standard COVID doesn’t accommodate ocrevus users and has caused pseudo flares.

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi William,

I haven't heard anything about Evushield since it was withdrawn from use in the U.S. several months ago, due to the large number of SARS-CoV-2 variants that are non-susceptible to it. My guess is that it won't return.

Ed

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Lisa S avatar

Lisa S

Covid vaccines are effective for those of us on Ocrevus. We still have T cells and can still mount an immune response. Data never supported the Evusheild working. If your neurologist has studies that show differently, I would be interested in seeing them. My neurologist has me boost for Covid every 6 months.

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Cheryl Boyson avatar

Cheryl Boyson

Hello. Yes I suffer from migraines although they are not frequent and easily managed with medication.

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Lorena Desiree Didon avatar

Lorena Desiree Didon

Sheesh we’re do I start. Im “Des” & 29 years old. I’ve lived in Mississippi my entire life. From Jackson to Gulfport. That’s my “stomping ground” and my head has hurt from as far back as I can remember. Im talking about so bad, I have to put ice on it and cut all the lights off. I’ve even hurt so bad from a headache that I vomited, and they get worse the older I get. However Aug 2021 I become so ill I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, and not having insurance means good luck finding out what’s wrong. Basically. It started off with me being very weak. Headaches daily, so bad it left me couch bound most days. Then I vomited blood. THEN I passed things in my stool 😳 at this point I go to the hospital, and was told I was crazy. This don’t happen in “America” but boy was they wrong!! A few months later I passed a tapeworm that could be stretched out atleast a foot long!! And that’s just the beginning. I make videos discussing this, if anyone wants to hear the rest of my story feel free to follow my Facebook • Lorena Desiree or TikTok JustCallMeDes

Shame on Mississippi & that’s the truth ✍🏽

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Alexa Woods avatar

Alexa Woods

Hello! Interesting article, I’ve always wondered if there was a link between migraines and MS. My migraines began in the early 2000’s and I was diagnosed with MS in 2019. I also wonder how long we have MS before it’s diagnosed. I would love to see more research on the topic. I’ve found Botox has been the most effective for long term treatment and highly recommend it. Thank you for the info Mr. Tobias!

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Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Alexa,

Thanks for sharing. There's a lot of anecdotal evidence that many people live with MS, or MS-like symptoms, for several years before a diagnosis is made. I don't think there's been much research in this area but here's a story MS News Today published a couple of years ago on this subject: https://multiplesclerosisnewstoday.com/news-posts/2021/06/24/ms-symptoms-apparent-years-before-diagnosis-study-germany/

Ed

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