Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be thought of as a continuum which people often move along through their life. Most people with MS are diagnosed with the Relapse-Remitting form (RRMS), where symptoms flare up (relapse) but then quieten down. This pattern of symptoms may change as time goes on and this may signify a move to the next phase of MS. Some people will, over time, move on to the Secondary Progressive form of MS (SPMS) where relapses become less frequent, but symptoms gradual worsen outside of relapses. Changes are usually gradual but it’s important to spot the signs so that you can flag them to your doctor early, as different types of MS can require different types of care.
RRMS is the most common form and is the phase of MS people are most often diagnosed with. People living with RRMS, experience periods when symptoms are more noticeable – these are called relapses. Usually, between these relapses the symptoms quieten or disappear – this is called remission. Managing RRMS with the right treatment for you can help reduce relapses and slow the progression to SPMS.
During a relapse, the body’s own immune system attacks the protective coating (myelin) around the neurons in the brain and spinal cord. Neurons are responsible for sending messages around the body and when they are damaged this means that the signals are disrupted. This causes the symptoms of MS and only when the relapse ends, and the immune system stops attacking the neurons, do symptoms quieten or disappear – remission.
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