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What is relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS)?

At the onset, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of the disease. It is characterized by clearly defined acute attacks—also known as exacerbations—that last from days to weeks, with full recovery or with some remaining neurological symptoms and residual deficit upon recovery. Periods between relapses are characterized by stability and the absence of disease progression. About 85 percent of those with MS are initially diagnosed with this form of the disease.

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is one of four forms of the disease. In fact, most people with MS are at first diagnosed with this form. If you have relapsing-remitting MS, you experience periodic attacks of the disease and its symptoms, followed by periods of remission. Remissions can be long, even a year or more in length, but they are not predictable-an infection or sickness could trigger a relapse of symptoms.

There are several different forms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), considered by some as a "milder form" of MS, is one in which patients experience a relapse (e.g. loss of vision is one eye, weakness, numbness, loss of bladder control, unsteadiness when walking which lasts several weeks) and then have complete or near complete resolution of their symptoms so they are able to return to near normal level of functioning. Such relapses in RRMS occur infrequently, typically 1-2/year, and afterwards patients are once again able to return to near normal level of functioning without progressive disability. Over the long term (15-20 years), if untreated, RRMS patients can experience disease progression with persistent symptoms/disability and the inability to walk without a cane.

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common pattern of MS. It is characterized by periods of exacerbation (or attack) followed by periods of remission. The remissions occur because nervous system cells have ways of partially compensating for their loss of ability. There's no way to know how long a remission will last after an attack—it could be a month or it could be several years. But disease activity usually continues at a low, often almost indiscernible level, and MS often worsens over time as the signal-transmitting portion of the cells—the axons—are damaged.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.