When someone talks about the stages of multiple sclerosis, I get a little confused. That implies that when you develop MS, you will go through several stages of the disease until you reach the end. So I really don't like this term, but it is a term that is sometimes used to describe MS, so let's go with it.
The stages of MS are very closely related to the four types of multiple sclerosis. They are Relapsing-remitting(RRMS), Secondary-Progressive (SPMS), Primary-Progressive (PPMS), and Progressive-Relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS). These are the main types in order of increasing disability.
There are a few other ways to describe MS as well. Benign multiple sclerosis is one of them. It should probably be listed as a type of RRMS. Benign MS is a very mild form of multiple sclerosis.
If you have this form of MS, you may have one or two symptoms that you experienced initially. After that, you pretty much have either very minor symptoms or no other recurrences of symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.
You live in more or less an extended remission for many years. Any symptoms you have just go away on their own and you experience no lasting permanent disability. Unfortunately, there is no way of predicting who will have this form of MS.
Many doctors adopt a "wait and see" approach to developing a prognosis for their patients. There is no way, as of now, to figure out what type of MS you have or will have in the next few years.
Another form of MS would be Malignant multiple sclerosis. This is sometimes called Acute MS or Marburg's Variant. This is a very rare form of MS and would probably fall under PRMS – which is also the rarest of the four main types listed above.
If you have acute multiple sclerosis you would progress very quickly from the time of your first symptom. This could all happen within a year and would leave you with severe disability. What kind of disability depends on where in your brain the damage occurs.
It's good to know that this form of MS is extremely rare. My heart goes out to those who develop malignant multiple sclerosis.
Other stages of MS are End Stage multiple sclerosis and Advanced multiple sclerosis. These are pretty much the same thing. They deal with what can happen toward the end of your life with MS.
If you have relapsing-remitting MS, you may not progress to the point of severe disability. This form – RRMS – is the largest group of all those who have MS. So much of the disability associated with End Stage and Advanced MS may not even happen to you.
About half of people with RRMS do go on to develop SPMS or secondary-progressive MS. With this type of MS, you do progressively get worse over time. You may experience an increasing amount of disability, as well.
Also, each person with MS will progress at different rates. The damage done to your brain and spinal cord may be more than another person with MS, or it could be less. I can understand why many doctors shy away from trying to come up with a prognosis for each patient - there are so many variables to consider.
Although this is a fearful and daunting term =I hope the term - stages of multiple sclerosis - is a little less confusing for you now. Of course, it is always important to talk with your doctor, especially if you haven't been diagnosed. MS is an overwhelming and serious condition and you don't have to deal with it alone.
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Cir & Akrista
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