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With multiple sclerosis (MS), you'll have good days and bad days. You might feel fine for weeks or months, and then your symptoms suddenly get worse.

Days when your old symptoms pop up again or new symptoms start are called relapses, attacks, or flare-ups. Everyone's flare-ups are different. Some are mild. Others are severe.

The goal is to prevent relapses. When your symptoms do get worse, know how to treat them so you can feel better faster.

What Causes Flare-Ups?

Flare-ups happen when inflammation in your nervous system damages the layer that covers and protects nerve cells. This damage slows or stops nerve cell signals from getting to the parts of your body where they need to go.

People with relapsing-remitting MS have flare-ups followed by symptom-free periods called remissions. To be a true relapse, the symptom must start at least 30 days after your last flare-up. And the symptom should stick around for at least 24 hours.

What Happens During a Flare-Up?

During a flare-up you'll get new symptoms. Or symptoms you already have will get worse.

You might have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Balance problems
  • Blurred vision or blindness in one eye
  • Dizziness
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Pins-and-needles feeling
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness

How to Prevent Flare-Ups

Certain things can start a relapse. Everyone's triggers are different. Learn what brings on your symptoms so you can avoid them.

To prevent flare-ups:

Take your medicines. The drugs your doctor prescribed slow your MS from getting worse and help prevent relapses. If you have side effects from your medicine, don't just stop taking them. Ask your doctor about other options.

Keep up your health. A bout of cold or flu can set off your MS symptoms. A bladder infection can trigger a flare-up, too. Wash your hands with warm water and soap during the day, get your yearly flu shot, and avoid people who look sick. Drink lots of water to keep your bladder healthy. Ask your doctor for other ways to avoid bladder infections.

Don't smoke. It's bad for you in so many ways, and it can make your MS symptoms worse.