How often do multiple sclerosis relapses occur

How often do multiple sclerosis relapses occur

For the majority of MSers, relapses are a big part of the multiple sclerosis (MS) journey and can affect day-to-day life. These periods are often quite frustrating, and in some cases, debilitating – but there are methods of management available.

By the end of this blog, you’ll be far more knowledgeable on relapses, how often they can occur, and some other components you should know about.

What is a relapse?

Firstly, it’s helpful to define what a relapse actually is.

Relapses will reach their climax often within days of a symptom/s being first noticed followed by a longer recovery period (over weeks or months). As time progresses, a person with MS will become less symptomatic and begin to feel better.

The symptoms caused by a relapse can vary a lot between people, which makes it quite tricky for your neurologist or MS nurse to properly diagnose one. You’ll know that you’re experiencing a relapse if after 24 hours symptoms haven’t gone away.

Relapses when you’re newly diagnosed

The main type of MS that causes relapses is relapse remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) and is the one that most people have.

MSers who are newly diagnosed will likely experience a relapse every 12 to 18 months, but this isn’t set in stone. Just like how symptoms vary, the frequency, severity, and recovery does too for each individual.

Are relapses different overtime?

Yes, as time progresses relapses can sometimes become less remitting.

Those who are newly diagnosed will often experience relapses differently to those who have had MS for a while. The main difference is the severity of relapses and the recovery time – it’s a trend that people who have had MS longer take more time to recover.

If relapses carry on and become continuously worse, then it can put a strain on the body. At this point your RRMS may develop into secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS). This is where you won’t have a relapse and recovery cycle any more, but symptoms may steadily worsen.

Another like this is primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) – it’s just like secondary in that symptoms worsen without a recovery period, but the condition began in this manner, rather than progressing  from RRMS. There are far fewer people who are diagnosed with type of MS.

If an MSer experiences more than two disabling relapses in a year then diagnosis may change to rapidly evolving severe relapse remitting multiple sclerosis (RES-RRMS). There is no change in how symptoms progress but the frequency of them has increased.

Sometimes it can take a long time to get a clear diagnosis when you have MS because the condition is so variable.

How you can manage relapses better

There are some options available to help manage relapses.

Complementary therapies

Additional therapies can help in managing relapses. Acupuncture, massage, and reflexology are a handful of the many out there that can help in making relapses more manageable and are readily available from the Neuro Therapy Network. We offer online activities that can make a difference too from our online portal, such as chair yoga and qigong which can make a big difference.

Disease modifying therapies (DMTs)

Medication can also be used to help manage the impacts of a relapse – both in their frequency and severity. DMTs do this by targeting inflammation which henceforth reduces the impact MS can have.


These are a short-term method to help reduce the severity of a relapse in the moment. A patient will often be offered a high-dose of corticosteroids within 14 days of its onset.

Relapses are just one component of many that impact your quality of life. If you’d like to learn more about other areas of MS, or perhaps join in on one of our online activities then feel free to click the buttons below – they’ll lead you to some really valuable resources!