Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is a type of multiple sclerosis. It’s the most common type of MS, making up about 85 percent of diagnoses. People who have RRMS have relapses of MS with periods of remission occurring in between.

MS is a chronic, progressive condition of the central nervous system (CNS) in which your immune system attacks myelin, the protective layer around nerve fibers.

When myelin is damaged, it causes the nerves to become inflamed and makes it difficult for your brain to communicate with the rest of your body.

There are four different types of MS. Let’s briefly explore each of them below.

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)

CIS may be an isolated incident or the first occurrence of a neurological condition. While the symptoms are characteristic of MS, the condition doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria of MS unless it recurs.

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)

This type of MS is marked by relapses of new or worsened symptoms with intervals of remission in between.

Primary progressive MS (PPMS)

In PPMS, the symptoms get progressively worse from the onset of disease. There are no periods of complete remission.

Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)

SPMS follows an initial pattern of relapses and remissions, then gets progressively worse. People with RRMS can eventually transition to having SPMS.

RRMS is characterized by defined relapses of new or worsening MS symptoms. These relapses can last for days or months until symptoms slowly improve, with or without treatment.

The symptoms of MS vary from person to person and may include things like:

Between RRMS relapses are periods of remission with no clinical evidence of disease progression. Sometimes these remission periods can last for years.

In RRMS, the immune system attacks myelin, a layer of tissue that serves to insulate and protect your nerves. These attacks affect the function of underlying nerves. The resulting damage cause MS symptoms.

What exactly causes RRMS and other types of MS is currently unknown. A combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as smoking, vitamin D deficiency, and certain viral infections, may play a role.

Tips for living with RRMS

Follow the tips below to help improve your quality of life while living with RRMS:

  • Try to stay active. Regular exercise can help with a variety of things that RRMS may be affect, including strength, balance, and coordination.
  • Eat healthy. Although there’s no specific diet plan for MS, eating a healthy, well-balanced diet may help.
  • Avoid extreme cold or heat. If your symptoms include heat sensitivity, avoid sources of heat or going outside when it’s hot. Cold compresses or cooling scarves may also help.
  • Avoid stress. Since stress may make symptoms worse, find ways to de-stress. This can include things like massage, yoga, or meditation.
  • If you smoke, quit. Not only is smoking a risk factor for developing MS, but it may also increase the progression of the condition.
  • Find support. Coming to terms with a diagnosis of RRMS can be difficult. Be honest about your feelings. Let those close to you know what they can do to help. You may even consider joining a support group.

There aren’t any specific diagnostic tests for RRMS. However, scientists are hard at work to develop tests that look for specific markers associated with MS.

Your doctor will start the diagnostic process by taking your medical history and performing a thorough physical examination. They’ll also need to rule out conditions other than MS that could be causing your symptoms.

They may also use tests such as:

  • MRI. This imaging test can look for demyelinating lesions on your brain and spinal cord.
  • Blood tests. A sample of blood is collected from a vein in your arm and analyzed in a lab. The results can help rule out other conditions that may be causing your symptoms.
  • Lumbar puncture. Also called a spinal tap, this procedure collects a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. This sample can be used to look for antibodies associated with MS or to rule out other causes of your symptoms.
  • Visual evoked potential tests. These tests use electrodes to collect information on the electrical signals that your nerves make when reacting to a visual stimulus.

A diagnosis of RRMS is based on the pattern of your symptoms and the presence of lesions in multiple areas of your nervous system.

Concrete patterns of relapses and remissions indicate RRMS. Symptoms that steadily get worse indicate a progressive form of MS.

There’s no cure for MS yet, but treatment can manage symptoms, treat relapses, and slow progression of the condition.

A variety of medications and therapies are available. For example, medications can help with symptoms like fatigue and muscle stiffness. A physiotherapist can assist with mobility issues or muscle weakness.

Relapses are often treated with medications called corticosteroids. Corticosteroids help reduce levels of inflammation. If your relapse symptoms are severe or don’t respond to corticosteroids, a treatment called plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) may be used.

Various drugs can help limit the amount of relapses and slow the formation of additional MS lesions. These medications are called disease-modifying drugs.

Medications to treat RRMS

There are many different disease-modifying drugs for RRMS. They can come in oral, injectable, or intravenous (IV) forms. They include:

Some of these medications can have side effects. Your doctor will work with you to select a therapy that takes into account how long you’ve had MS, your disease severity, and any underlying health conditions.

Your doctor will monitor your condition at regular intervals. If your symptoms are worsening or your MRIs show progression of lesions, your doctor may recommend trying a different treatment strategy.

The outlook for RRMS varies from person to person. For example, the condition may progress quickly in some, while others may remain stable for years.

Tissue damage from RRMS can accumulate over time. About two-thirds of people with RRMS will go on to develop SPMS. On average, this transition can occur after about 15 to 20 years.

In SPMS, symptoms gradually worsen without the presence of obvious attacks. One observational study that included almost 800 people with RRMS found that progression to SPMS was an important factor in predicting more severe disability.

On average, the life expectancy for people with MS is 5 to 10 years less than average. However, the outlook is improving as researchers keep on developing new treatments.

RRMS is a type of MS in which specific relapses of MS symptoms are observed. Between relapses are periods of remission.

RRMS develops when the immune system attacks and damages the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves, impairing nerve function. It’s still unclear exactly what causes this immune system dysfunction to occur.

Although there’s no cure for RRMS yet, a variety of treatments are available to manage symptoms. These treatments also focus on relieving relapses and preventing progression.

In some cases, RRMS may transition into SPMS, a progressive form of MS.