Confused About Multiple Sclerosis Relapses? Here’s What You Need To Know

Depending on the individual, relapses can be a particularly difficult part of multiple sclerosis. If you’re yet to experience a relapse, they are usually highly complex in nature, can happen at any time and can affect people in vastly different ways. This naturally makes relapses difficult to adequately demonstrate to anyone unfamiliar with them, but there are some consistencies that are worth demonstrating. In this article, we take a look at what a multiple sclerosis-related relapse might look like. 

How relapses unfold in people with multiple sclerosis

When someone with multiple sclerosis experiences a relapse, they undergo new damage in the brain or spinal cord, and this process serves to disrupt nerve signals. An MS relapse will therefore retrigger old symptoms and can potentially also include new symptoms, depending on the extent of the damage. These flare ups can last for over 24 hours and usually occur at least 30 days after any past relapses, but the specifics – such as the severity, length and symptoms presented – will depend entirely on the individual and relapses can even vary to an extent in the same person. This unpredictability is this reason that relapses can be so hard to adequately define. Periods of recovery will follow these relapses wherein symptoms improve and it’s usually the case that treatment is not needed. Sometimes relapses can be expected after periods of stress, as it is believed the weakening of the immune system due to this stress (something that also happens in healthy people) increases the risk of relapse. The weakening of the immune system due to other illnesses can similarly increase the chance of relapse in the same way. 

What happens when a relapse occurs? 

One of the most commonly reported symptoms in patients experiencing a multiple sclerosis relapse is weakness and fatigue. This reaction is caused due to the protective covering of nerve fibres being damaged and consequently interrupting brain signals and this reaction can also cause numbness, another common symptom of multiple sclerosis-related relapse. Numbness can be represented in minor or extreme forms during these relapses, and might be demonstrated as a mild tingle in the limbs of some people and a total loss of sensation for others. With both weakness and numbness possible symptoms, it can be quite easy to see how someone unprepared for such an extreme response might be taken off guard and potentially incapacitated. In addition to this weakness, people experiencing a relapse may also suffer from some vision issues, such as a loss to the depth vision and decreased colour perception due to inflammation of the optic nerve. Eye issues are quickly recovered from, however. 

Experiencing a relapse? Help is out there

Sometimes the best way to deal with relapse is to adequately prepare. If you’re having a tough time due to stress and/or some kind of illness, preparing for the symptoms of relapse can help you manage it, or at least push through in some capacity. Coping with relapses can be very tough, especially if you’re experiencing an extended or particularly tough episode. If you are in the throes of a relapse, it’s not something you have to suffer through alone – get in touch with your GP and they may be able to determine if there is anything more serious at play.