Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) can be challenging. A person with MS may experience a variety of symptoms — including visual, motor, cognitive, and emotional changes — depending on their MS diagnosis.
The most common form of MS is called relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS). About 70 percent to 80 percent of people who are newly diagnosed with MS have this type. In fact, more than 71,000 MyMSTeam members report having an RRMS diagnosis. Similar to other types of MS, RRMS occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the central nervous system (CNS). It is because of this fact that MS as a whole is often referred to as a disease with an autoimmune component. The CNS is composed of the brain and spinal cord. The hallmark of MS as a disease is that it destroys the myelin, or protective covering, that surrounds the nerve fibers in your body.
Currently, there is no single known cause or cure for RRMS. However, the field of neurology within health care has identified several factors that may play a role in its development.
RRMS is characterized by the appearance of a relapse — an attack, flare-up, or exacerbation of new symptoms or the return of old MS symptoms. Relapses vary in the type, length, and severity of symptoms. Typically, a relapse lasts between 24 and 48 hours, but symptoms of MS can continue for weeks or sometimes months. There are several treatment options to manage RRMS symptoms.
In RRMS, relapses are typically followed by periods of remission. A remission occurs when MS symptoms improve or disappear. During this time, a person living with MS usually does not experience worsening symptoms.
The CNS controls most bodily functions including vision, awareness, movement, reflexes, sensations, thoughts, speech, and memory. Depending on the location of the inflammatory attack, someone with RRMS may experience a variety of unpredictable and new symptoms. A combination of symptoms is common, but no two individuals have the exact same RRMS symptoms.
Vision problems are often the earliest sign of RRMS. However, an individual with RRMS may experience changes in other sensory areas throughout their disease course. In fact, sensory abnormalities and pain are observed in as many as 80 percent of people with MS. Common sensory changes include:
A large number of people living with MS will experience changes in their motor functions. However, people with RRMS do not typically experience the gradual progression of the disease in mobility or walking often seen in people living with other types of MS. An individual with RRMS may experience the following symptoms:
Cognitive changes can make daily activities a challenge for some people with RRMS. Symptoms can include memory problems, difficulty thinking clearly, and difficulty processing old or new information.
Fatigue is another early sign of RRMS, affecting about 80 percent of people with MS. A person with RRMS may experience mental or physical exhaustion, which can sometimes make daily activities at home or work challenging. RRMS can also cause mood changes such as anxiety or depression.
Recognizing Early Signs of RRMS
Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop RRMS. Additionally, this disease mainly affects young people in their 20s and 30s. However, children and older adults can still develop RRMS. People with RRMS tend to have more newly developed inflammatory brain lesions (plaques or scars) on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans.
There are many ways to manage RRMS symptoms:
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