How Long Does an MS Flare Last? | MyMSTeam

Connect with others who understand.

sign up Log in
Resources
About MyMSTeam
Powered By

How Long Does an MS Relapse Last?

Updated on January 2, 2024

  • Relapses, or periods of increased symptoms and disease activity, are common in relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS).
  • Relapses can vary in length from days to months.
  • It’s important to communicate with your doctor about MS relapses to get timely treatment for symptoms and, if necessary, discuss changes to your disease-modifying treatments (DMTs).

Relapses are the hallmark of relapsing forms of MS, which include clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), and active secondary progressive MS (SPMS). During relapses — sometimes called flare-ups or exacerbations — a person may develop new or worsening symptoms of MS that continue for at least 24 hours.

The duration and severity of relapses vary from person to person, depending on where in the central nervous system damage is happening. Some relapses last a couple of days, and others persist for a few months. Any length of time can feel like an eternity during a severe relapse.

Read on to find out how long MS relapses last, on average, and what you can do to feel better faster.

MS Relapses Lasting Less Than a Month

In an online survey of 5,300 people with MS, the majority (62.5 percent) of respondents reported that their relapses lasted less than one month. Participants also shared how frequently they experienced relapses:

  • 44 percent — Less than one relapse a year
  • 35.5 percent — One or two relapses a year
  • 20.2 percent — More than two relapses a year

Many MyMSTeam members report having shorter relapses. “My last relapse lasted about three weeks,” wrote one member.

“I had my first relapse in 10 years. It lasted 3 1/2 weeks,” shared another.

“All of my relapses have been short-lived and all different symptoms of multiple sclerosis,” noted a third member. “I’ve had MS since I was in my 20s. Now I’m 78 and still pushing through it.”

Once the MS exacerbation subsides, that doesn’t mean you’ll immediately return to “normal,” or your baseline, milder symptoms. It takes time for your body to recover. One MyMSTeam member wrote, “The flare itself lasted weeks, but I was bad for three months. It took me over a year to get back to baseline with some residual effects.”

MS is a chronic (long-term) autoimmune disease, and its course can change over time. In progressive forms of MS, people don’t experience relapses and remission, and symptoms progress gradually. “My relapses used to last three to six weeks on average,” related a member. “Now I’m progressive, so symptoms are daily.”

Read more about what MS relapses feel and look like.

Longer MS Relapses

Of the people with MS in the survey mentioned above, 10.9 percent reported flares lasting one to two months, and 13.6 percent said their relapses persisted for more than two months.

Some MyMSTeam members have also reported experiencing longer relapses. “My first relapse since diagnosis lasted 18 months,” wrote one member.

“I had a relapse that lasted almost five months,” said another.

An MS relapse of any length can take a major toll, but longer ones can test a person’s emotional endurance as well as their physical limits. “This relapse has lasted four months up to now, and I don’t think I can deal with it anymore,” shared a MyMSTeam member.

Fellow members were quick to provide support and recommend ways to talk to a doctor about getting effective treatment.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important to your quality of life as treating your immune system. If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety — both common in people with MS — reach out to your support network of family and friends and in-person or online support groups like MyMSTeam. A health care professional can also help connect you with resources.

Getting Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis Relapses

Unfortunately, the survey found that only about half (46.9 percent) of participants always or often contacted their doctor about managing relapses. Worse, 18.5 percent rarely let their doctor know they were having a relapse, and 7.3 percent never reached out to their health care provider about relapses.

It’s important to understand that treating a flare-up can provide several benefits. Getting treatment for MS flares has been shown to:

  • Shorten the amount of time with disabling symptoms
  • Improve outcomes
  • Help people with MS gain a sense of control over the disease

Always let your health care provider know if your MS symptoms have gotten worse or if you’re experiencing a new symptom lasting more than 24 hours.

Treatment options for an MS relapse may include:

Preventing MS Flare-Ups

Disease-modifying therapies have been shown to reduce the rate and severity of MS relapses, limit the activity of the disease, and slow the progression of disability. However, DMTs must be taken consistently over the long term to have full effect. Your neurologist may recommend changing your DMTs if relapses are becoming more frequent or side effects become too bothersome — another reason it’s important to communicate with your doctor about relapses.

If time has gone by with no relapses, you may wonder whether your DMT is still needed. But disease activity can continue without noticeable relapses. A MyMSTeam member offered this advice about MS relapses and treatment: “No one can tell how long an average relapse will last. Everyone is different. Just remember: Even when you’re ‘normal,’ your disease is still active.”

“I had my first flare in 10 years. I spent five days on steroids. Stick with your disease-modifying therapies, and don’t tempt fate!” urged another member.

Read more about treatment options for relapsing MS.

MS relapses are different in each person, varying in length and in severity of symptoms. Let your health care team know anytime you think you’re having a relapse. You can discuss possible triggers and next steps for management. If MS symptoms are causing substantial problems in your daily life, seek medical attention promptly.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 205,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with multiple sclerosis.

If you’ve had an MS relapse, how long did it last? What did you do to help manage your symptoms or get back to feeling better faster? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on January 2, 2024
    All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

    We'd love to hear from you! Please share your name and email to post and read comments.

    You'll also get the latest articles directly to your inbox.

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
    Luc Jasmin, M.D., Ph.D., FRCS (C), FACS is a board-certified neurosurgery specialist. Learn more about him here.
    Anastasia Climan, RDN, CDN is a dietitian with over 10 years of experience in public health and medical writing. Learn more about her here.
    Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.

    Related Articles

    When multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms intensify, worsening anxiety and discomfort can make it har...

    Emergencies and Hospital Stays for MS Relapse: When To Go and What It Means for Treatment

    When multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms intensify, worsening anxiety and discomfort can make it har...
    If you feel like you are coughing more since being diagnosed with MS or that you deal with a lot ...

    MS and Coughing: Tips for Mucus, Throat Clearing, and More

    If you feel like you are coughing more since being diagnosed with MS or that you deal with a lot ...
    Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience periods of new or worsening symptoms. These e...

    8 Symptoms of MS Relapse: How To Know if You’re Having a Flare

    Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) experience periods of new or worsening symptoms. These e...
    The three relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) are clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), rela...

    3 Relapsing Forms of MS

    The three relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) are clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), rela...
    Multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses are different for everyone.An MS relapse, or flare-up, is the ap...

    What Do MS Flare-Ups Feel and Look Like?

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses are different for everyone.An MS relapse, or flare-up, is the ap...
    Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have questions about whether dental work and root canals...

    Do Root Canals Cause MS or Trigger Flares?

    Many people with multiple sclerosis (MS) have questions about whether dental work and root canals...

    Recent Articles

    Ozempic (a brand name for semaglutide) and similar drugs are all over the news. They were even na...

    Ozempic and Multiple Sclerosis: Insights From Dr. Aaron Boster on GLP-1 Agonists

    Ozempic (a brand name for semaglutide) and similar drugs are all over the news. They were even na...
    Hormones — when you think of the term, you probably picture a moody teenager going through pubert...

    Hormones and MS: 8 Facts To Know

    Hormones — when you think of the term, you probably picture a moody teenager going through pubert...
    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the central...

    MS and the Myelin Sheath: Demyelination Causes and Treatments

    Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the central...
    Part of the Relapsing MS Playbook seriesEnter Cell 2 Content Here...Enter Cell 3 Content Here...E...

    MS and Sleep: Managing Night Sweats, Insomnia, and More (VIDEO)

    Part of the Relapsing MS Playbook seriesEnter Cell 2 Content Here...Enter Cell 3 Content Here...E...
    Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) can be effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). These ...

    DMTs for MS: 3 Signs It Might Be Time To Switch and What To Know

    Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) can be effective treatment for multiple sclerosis (MS). These ...
    Advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) can cause physical impairment and cognitive deficits, which affe...

    Advanced Multiple Sclerosis: 4 Symptoms and 8 Ways To Manage

    Advanced multiple sclerosis (MS) can cause physical impairment and cognitive deficits, which affe...
    MyMSTeam My multiple sclerosis Team

    Thank you for subscribing!

    Become a member to get even more:

    sign up for free

    close