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Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis

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Most people who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) have a type called relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). It usually develops when you're in your 20s or 30s.

If you have RRMS, you may have attacks when symptoms flare up. These are called relapses.

A relapse is followed by recovery or remission of symptoms. A remission can last weeks, months, or even longer. When you are in remission, you may have few or no symptoms. The disease is stable during this time -- meaning it doesn't progress. When you go into remission you may or may not return to your previous condition level.

After 10 to 20 years, the course of RRMS shifts to a progressive type. Relapses decrease but the disease worsens. This is called secondary progressive multiple sclerosis.

Symptoms of Relapsing-Remitting MS

One of the hallmarks of MS is the variability of its symptoms. No two people are likely to experience the same set of symptoms in the same way.

Some symptoms may come and go or appear once and not again. Which symptoms you have depends on the area of the brain or spinal cord that has been damaged.

The symptoms of relapsing-remitting MS may include:

  • Eye pain and vision problems such as double vision or jumpy vision (vision problems may be the first sign of RRMS)
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Sensitivity to heat
  • Radiating pain, like a mild electrical shock, when bending the neck
  • Dizziness
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Problems with sexual function
  • Trouble moving, muscle stiffness
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Problems with balance and coordination
  • Difficulty thinking clearly
  • Depression

An RRMS attack can last anywhere from 24 hours to several weeks. An attack can involve:

  • One or many symptoms
  • Worsening of an existing symptom
  • Development of a new symptom

Remissions can last for a year or more.

Tell your doctor about symptoms of a relapse as soon as possible. Treating it quickly may reduce permanent damage and disability.

Treatment of Relapsing-Remitting MS

Most people with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis manage the disease with a combination of:

Some drugs help cut disease activity by reducing the body's immune response. Others help manage flare-ups or specific disease-related symptoms.

For most people with RRMS, beginning treatment soon after diagnosis is recommended to avoid permanent nerve damage.

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