If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with relapsing multiple sclerosis, here are five things you'll want to know right now.
Sometimes it can be hard to understand exactly what multiple sclerosis (MS) does inside the body. Here are two explanations, one in everyday language and the other more scientific.Expand this section
MS is a disease where your body attacks itself, specifically the fatty coating called the myelin sheath on nerves in the brain, spinal cord, and eye area. This causes many scars to develop, which prevent the nerves from communicating as they should. This communication breakdown creates a range of symptoms from mild to severe, and from temporary to permanent.
No two people experience MS exactly the same way. Certain treatments
The central nervous system (CNS) is made up of nerve cells that send signals to each other. Each nerve cell is covered with a protective coating called myelin. Myelin acts as a conductor in helping signals move at high speeds from one end of the nerve cell to the other.
In multiple sclerosis, disease activity damages the myelin in a process called demyelination. Demyelination results in lesions that lead to a breakdown in signal transmissions. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) are a result of this communication breakdown. Disease activity can also damage the underlying nerve cell, which may lead to permanent symptoms and disability.
There are four different types of disease courses in MS. A “course” means the way the disease affects the body over time. It can be helpful to understand the differences between them, especially for conversations with your doctor.Expand this section
Approximately 85% of people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed with this type. In RRMS, people have clearly defined periods that alternate between remission and relapse. A relapse is also called an exacerbation, an attack, or a flare-up. During the relapse period, MS symptoms worsen and new ones may appear. These relapses are followed by a long or short period of remission when symptoms partially or completely go away. There is no way to predict the remission/relapse time frames.
Another type of multiple sclerosis is secondary-progressive MS (SPMS). Some people, following an initial period with relapsing MS, may develop this type in which symptoms and disability get progressively worse. It is less common to have periods of remission/relapse here.
Rebif® (interferon beta-1a) is not indicated for the treatment of
It is impossible for your doctor to predict if or when an individual with relapsing MS will progress to SPMS.
This type occurs in about 10% of people living with multiple sclerosis. Typically, people living with primary-progressive MS experience a slow but steady worsening of the disease from its onset, with no distinct periods of relapse or remission. The rate of progression varies for people with primary-progressive multiple sclerosis and may even include periods of temporary minor improvement.
Rebif is not indicated for the treatment of primary-progressive MS.
This type is also characterized by a steady worsening of the disease. Unlike people living with
Rebif is not indicated for the treatment of progressive-relapsing MS.
The cause of MS is currently unknown. It is generally believed that MS is an autoimmune disease. Normally, your immune system helps to fight foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. In an autoimmune disease, something triggers the immune system to attack itself.Expand this section
Some scientists think that multiple sclerosis may be triggered by an infection—probably a virus. It is thought that this trigger may activate the production of T cells, which are a type of white blood cell. Once activated, the T cells start to multiply and cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB) to the brain and spinal cord. The T cells are thought to then begin a process that attacks and damages nerve cells in the central nervous system (CNS).
If there is a viral connection to multiple sclerosis, it is believed that the virus triggers a genetic predisposition to the disease, which means that exposure to a virus is just one factor for why someone might develop multiple sclerosis. There is also no evidence to support the idea that MS is contagious.
There is no single test for MS. This is why it’s important to see a neurologist who specializes in treating MS when being evaluated. He or she will be able to rule out other conditions that can appear like MS, but are not. Lupus, brain infections, and multiple strokes are a few conditions that are sometimes misdiagnosed as MS.Expand this section
An MRI is an important tool to help confirm a multiple sclerosis diagnosis. However, there are some MS patients who do not have visible lesions on MRI. A detailed medical history and various neurological tests are also part of determining an MS diagnosis.
A relapse is when symptoms worsen or new ones appear for at least 24 hours. If symptoms last for only a few hours, it may be part of MS but not a relapse. There is no way to know how long a relapse will last. Afterward, symptoms may partially or completely go away. This period is called remission. A relapse is also known by the terms exacerbation, attack, or flare-up.Expand this section Collapse this sectionBack to top