What You Need to Know About Benign MS

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on March 02, 2023
3 min read

Multiple sclerosis is a long-term condition that causes your immune system to attack your central nervous system (CNS). As it progresses, it permanently damages nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. This disrupts the way your brain communicates with the rest of your body. That means changes in the way your body moves and functions, leading to symptoms like:

There’s no cure for multiple sclerosis, but benign MS is the mildest form of the condition.

Neurologists, or doctors who study the brain and nervous system, consider MS benign if you’ve maintained most of your body’s ability to function after having MS for several years.

Only about 5% to 10% of people with MS have this form of the condition, but it’ll take some time before you get an official diagnosis.

Benign MS is a variation of relapsing-remitting MS. This is a form of the condition in which new or worsening symptoms are very mild or don’t flare up for a long period of time. That’s why doctors wait so long to diagnose it.

But about 15 years after your original MS diagnosis, your doctor will be able to tell if the condition is benign or not. They use an MRI and the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) to figure out how physically impaired you are. The exam takes 15 to 30 minutes.

EDSS scores range from 0, which means your neurological exam was normal, to 10, which means death due to MS. EDSS scores that are 3 or below mean there’s been some change to how your body functions, but you can still walk. If you have an EDSS score of 3 or below and it’s been at least 10 years since your first MS symptoms, doctors will diagnose you with benign MS.

Benign MS doesn’t mean you won’t have any symptoms. Multiple sclerosis is very unpredictable, so it’s hard for doctors to pinpoint the exact way it will progress. Sometimes, it progresses slowly and mildly. At other times, it changes course and progresses very quickly.

But if you have benign MS, you might have some of the following symptoms, even though you can walk and most of your body still works well:

You might also feel depressed at times as well, but treatment can help.

There’s no cure for MS, but medication can slow the disease down. Other medication can help you manage your symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you think you might have benign MS. They can give you an MRI to see if you have it.

If you’ve already been diagnosed, talk to your doctor about a diet and exercise program that can help you manage the condition and have a better quality of life.

Even when you have the condition under control, you’ll need to have regular checkups with your doctor. A benign MS diagnosis is only a measure of your experience with multiple sclerosis up until that point. You can’t predict how it may progress.