multiple sclerosis follows one of four courses:
- Relapsing-remitting, where symptoms may
fade and then recur at random for many years. The disease does not advance
during the remissions.
- Secondary progressive, which initially follows a relapsing-remitting course. Later
on, it becomes steadily progressive.
- Primary progressive, where the disease is progressive from the
- Progressive relapsing, where steady
deterioration of nerve function begins when symptoms first appear. Symptoms
appear and disappear, but nerve damage continues. Few people have this course
Many people with MS do not follow one of these patterns
exactly. The course is often hard to predict. Not only does it vary from person
to person, but the pattern may change in an individual over time. MS may be
more severe in men than women, particularly in middle-aged men.
MS usually progresses with a series of
relapses that occur over many years
(relapsing-remitting MS). In many people the first MS attack involves just a
single symptom. It may be weeks, months, or years before you have a relapse. As
time goes by, symptoms may linger after each relapse so you lose the ability to
fully recover from the relapse. New symptoms often develop as the disease
damages other areas of the
brain or spinal cord .
Events that can mean you may have a more
severe progression of MS include:
- Frequent relapses during the first few years of
- Incomplete recovery between
- Early, lasting motor problems that affect
- Many lesions that show up on an
MRI early in the disease.
The duration of the disease varies. Most people who get MS
live with it for decades. People with MS often become disabled over time,
but the disease itself is rarely life-threatening and may not directly reduce your
natural life span.
Most people who develop MS have a
relapsing-remitting course. After about 10 years, about half of these
people develop secondary progressive MS.
Some people have a few
mild attacks from which they recover entirely. This is called benign MS.
Although rare, a small number of people die within several months of the
onset of MS. This is called malignant or fulminant MS.
Since most people diagnosed with
MS are women in their child-bearing years, questions about having children are
common. Research shows that most couples in which one partner has MS are able
to have children without MS affecting the pregnancy, labor, or delivery. Plus,
MS does not increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, or low birth
weight. Some women have fewer MS symptoms during pregnancy, then a temporary
relapse after delivery. But pregnancy, delivering a baby, and early motherhood
do not increase the risk of being disabled by MS over