How to recognize a genuine relapse vs a pseudo relapse
Relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms can vary widely, and not everyone will experience the same symptoms. How and when symptoms flare up and how long they last can be just as unpredictable. It’s important to pay attention to what you experience, though, because there are 2 types of MS relapses, and being able to tell the difference may be helpful.
A genuine relapse, also known as a flare-up or exacerbation, occurs when 1 or more MS symptoms worsen, or even new symptoms develop. To be considered “genuine,” a relapse must last 24 hours or more and occur at least 30 days after the last flare-up. It can also be a sign of new disease activity in the central nervous system.
A pseudo relapse is when symptoms appear and then usually go away within a 24-hour period. The aggravation is only temporary and could be triggered by something like exposure to heat (or having an elevated body temperature) or cold, if you’re sensitive to it. Some symptoms can be caused by bladder or other infections. Although a pseudo relapse may feel just as bad as a genuine relapse, it is not necessarily a sign of new disease activity.
Although pseudo relapses usually subside on their own, if you’re concerned at any point, it is important to let your healthcare provider know. Any persistence of symptoms past the 24-hour mark could be a sign of a genuine relapse.
Warm-weather activities can trigger a pseudo relapse as you rack up those hours in the sun. So, what happens if you think you’re having a pseudo relapse? If you’ve been spending time outdoors, get inside to a cool place and take a breather. Once you have been in the shade and your body temperature has dropped, your symptoms will tend to recede. If you are concerned about symptoms or have questions about them, contact your healthcare provider.
Next time you’re heading out for some sun and sand, remember these tips to help avoid triggering a pseudo relapse.
- Don’t tire yourself out; take breaks
- Stay out of the sun or hot places
- If you find you’re sensitive to the cold, try to avoid that as well