Relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of MS. It involves periods of time when symptoms are stable and other times when there’s a flare-up or relapse.
If you have MS, you’re not alone in having questions about your condition. Many people want to know how flare-ups feel, how long they’ll last, and how their MS may change over time.
Keep reading to find answers to some common questions about relapsing remitting MS.
Over time, your MS symptoms and management will likely change. The symptoms that appear or worsen during a flare-up will typically resolve once you’re back in remission.
Effective treatments can manage symptoms and prevent or delay the progression of MS.
Relapsing remitting MS can progress to another stage of MS. This type is called secondary progressive MS. Symptoms of secondary progressive MS change over time at a steady, more gradual pace. It doesn’t have the flares and remission phases of RRMS.
Every person with MS is unique and will experience the condition differently.
MS is considered a progressive condition. This means that symptoms change over time, and it may progress to another type of MS. More advanced types of MS can become more difficult to manage.
Getting started on treatments soon after diagnosis can lengthen the time between relapses. Treatments also make it possible to have long periods of time with no progression.
RRMS can progress to another type of MS called secondary progressive MS. With this type of MS, there tends to be a more gradual and steady progression.
Better treatment options using long-term disease-modifying therapies are changing outcomes. Many people aren’t progressing the way they would have before disease-modifying therapies were available.
MS flare-ups and relapses aren’t exactly the same:
- Flare-up. Stress on the body causes symptoms you’ve already experienced to appear again.
- Relapse. Brand new symptoms appear constantly for at least 24 hours, caused by new damage to the nervous system.
A relapse occurs when there’s an increase in inflammation in the nerves and myelin. New or worsening symptoms that last more than 24 to 48 hours may be considered a relapse. Your doctor will first make sure there’s no other cause for your symptoms.
Symptoms may be new or a sudden worsening of any of your current symptoms. A relapse can last for days or months. Relapses are followed by periods of remission, when symptoms resolve or improve. A remission period can last up to months or years.
This will vary depending on the person. During a flare-up, some of your current symptoms may feel slightly worse, but no new symptoms should appear.
Some of the most common symptoms of an MS flare-up are:
- feeling more sensitive to heat
- loss of balance or feeling dizzy
- feeling unstable or uncoordinated
- changes in bladder or bowel function
- numbness or tingling
- feeling weak
Flare-ups occur when damage that’s already been done to your central nervous system is triggered by stress or an increase in heat. This can happen because of several different reasons, like emotional stress or infection.
Keep in mind that sometimes a flare-up occurs even if you’re doing your best to manage your MS. Having a flare-up doesn’t mean that you’ve done anything wrong.
The following are some common MS flare-up triggers.
People with MS can be more sensitive to temperature. Staying in the sun too long on a hot day or being in a sauna may trigger symptoms.
It’s not possible to magically get rid of all of life’s stressors, but how you respond to stress is important.
Consider trying relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or gentle activity. You may also consider working with a professional to learn coping strategies.
It’s important to take any medications for MS exactly as directed. If you start a new medication for another health concern, be sure to check with your doctor that it won’t interact with your MS treatments.
Other infections or illnesses
Staying healthy is especially important when you live with MS. Getting an infection or coming down with a cold or flu can cause a flare-up. It’s recommended to get your flu shot every year and wash your hands frequently.
MS is a chronic (long-term) condition. There’s no cure, but effective treatments are available.
Treatments for relapsing remitting MS can lengthen the time between relapses. They can also prevent or delay progression to another stage of MS.
Relapsing remitting MS is a long-term health condition that involves periods when symptoms flare, followed by a remission.
There are effective treatments available that can help manage symptoms and delay time between relapses. With medical advances, fewer people with RRMS are progressing to a more advanced stage of the disease.