What's an MS Relapse?

An MS relapse - what exactly is it? You have symptoms with your multiple sclerosis, however, what distinguishes a symptom from a relapse? A few questions to ask yourself to see if you are having a relapse.

  1. Is the symptom you are experiencing a new one?
  2. Did the new or old symptom come on fast?
  3. Is the symptom worse than you had it before?
  4. Did or is the symptom lasting for more than 24 hours?
  5. Is the symptom occurring at least 30 days since the last one?

If you answered yes to most of these, then most likely you have suffered a relapse, attack, flare-up, or exacerbation. (All 3 are other names for a relapse and can be used interchangeably). 

Criteria for an MS relapse

1 ~ Is the symptom new?

If the symptom you are experiencing is new, then you are probably experiencing an exacerbation. If this is the first time you've had numbness, or tingling, vision, bladder or bowel problems, then something has caused you to have a relapse. This is not the only time you may be having an attack.

2 ~ Did the new or old symptom come on suddenly?

Another question to ask yourself is how quickly you experienced the symptom. If it appeared suddenly, even if it was an old symptom, then you are possibly experiencing a relapse. Exacerbations come on very quickly, almost without warning. Although Cir and I can usually look back after the fact and figure out what brought it on.

3 ~ Is the symptom worse than before?

If the symptom is not new, is it worse than you've ever experienced it in the past? You may experience the same symptoms over and over with MS, but sometimes they may be milder. That is not a flare-up. If however, the symptom is much worse, then yes, you are having a flare-up.

4 ~ Did it last for 24 hrs or more?

A symptom lasting for only a few hours, maybe like fatigue or weakness, even if it comes on suddenly, is not an exacerbation. If however, the symptom is new or old and it lasts for at least 24 hours, then yes, that's a an MS relapse. You might even experience the same symptom for days, weeks, or even months.

Hopefully, you can get relief from any troubling symptoms with either rest, medication, or some other alternative treatment. Depending on the symptom, you may require hospitalization and maybe even therapy to help you overcome the effects.

5 ~ Have there been at least 30 days since last symptom?

Again, if the symptom is an old one, you may still be having a flare-up, if you have not experienced it for at least 30 days. You may have had this symptom years ago, yet now it's back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, this is an MS attack. Quite possibly, a nerve is being damaged more in the same spot it was initially.

So there you have it. Every symptom you experience is not classified as an exacerbation or relapse. Only those that meet the above criteria qualify to be counted as such. 

Go to MS Symptoms from MS Relapse.

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