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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Is a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Relapse?

Simply put, relapses, also known as flare ups, or (MS) attacks are new or worsening MS symptoms. But there is a concrete definition used by healthcare providers to identify MS attacks.

To be considered an MS relapse:

  • Old symptoms of MS must have become worse or new symptoms appeared.Sometimes new symptoms can appear or old symptoms can get worse gradually or suddenly. And not everyone has the same symptoms. They tend to be different for every person. Also keep in mind that most people with MS continue to experience somesymptoms, even when they are in remission—when symptoms have been stable. Being in remission does not mean symptom free. It’s only when symptoms change that you may be having a relapse.

  • Symptoms must last at least 24 hours. If your symptoms have lasted for less than 24 hours, you may have had a pseudo-relapse, or another condition commonly mistaken for a relapse. Relapse symptoms can last days, weeks, or even months.
  • Symptoms must occur at least 30 days after the last relapse. MS symptoms had to have been stable for about 1 month before symptoms became worse or new symptoms appeared.
  • There must be no other explanation for the symptoms. Some other conditions, like the flu, can be mistaken for an MS relapse. In a true relapse, symptoms are not connected with any other cause and do not get better when that cause is identified and treated.

Some MS relapses are obvious—especially when symptoms have more of an impact on your life. Other times, relapses may not be as clear. For example, if you suddenly have trouble seeing, you may realize that you’re having a relapse right away. If you are feeling more tired than usual, it may be harder to know if this is a relapse.

When in doubt, ask your healthcare provider. This is especially true if your symptoms get worse and stay worse for more than 24 hours. Your healthcare provider will help you determine if your symptoms are in fact a relapse and caused by active disease—or if they are caused by scar tissue that formed during an earlier period of active disease. Your healthcare provider will also make sure that your symptoms are not caused byanother condition, which may have been mistaken for a relapse.

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