Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is not a one size fits all disease. It affects each person who has it differently and therefore must be lumped in different categories in order to delineate the progression of the disease. Doctors have studied the disease and decided that there are four main types of MS.
Some people will have mild symptoms for years while others have moderate or severe symptoms for years before it is diagnosed. In addition, MS has been known to morph from one type to another over a period of time.
The relapsing-remitting MS is the most common form of the disease and is represented by a large portion of the population of MS sufferers. In this particular type, you may experience succession of relapses when your MS symptoms seem to get worse. Then, you will experience remissions when the symptoms lessen or disappear altogether.
Many sufferers will call the relapse period a time filled with flare-ups. Different intensities of pain along with new symptoms cropping up and disappearing during the remission phase. Thanks to the medications these days like corticosteroids, these relapse times can be shortened to bring relief.
About ten percent or so of MS sufferers belong to the primary-progressive category. This type of MS marks a gradual but steady decline in terms of the symptoms. This category does not experience the number of relapses and remissions as the first category. Instead, you will feel start to feel worse degree by degree and the rate of decline will vary from person to person.
People who fall into this category first started off in the relapse-remitting phase of MS. Remission stages have worn away leaving only a steady deterioration of symptoms which can vary from one person to another. About half of the people who were originally in the relapse-remission category develop this secondary-progressive phase, usually within 8-10 years of the diagnosis.
The medications for MS sufferers these days have greatly slowed down the secondary-progressive phase quite a bit so the studies in regards to this phase are somewhat out of date. So basically the jury is still out as to how fast some MS sufferers decline in this category.
A small percentage of MS sufferers fall into the worst category called progressive-relapse. If you fall into this phase you likely are suffering from a steady degeneration of symptoms along with flare-ups and attacks on certain days. There are no remission phases in the progressive-relapse category. While medications may ease the pain of the symptoms, they no longer help your body into the remission phase.
It may take some time after your initial diagnosis of MS to determine where you fall in terms of the four basic categories. And even when you find out, there are many medications today that can successfully help you deal with the many symptoms of MS. These medications and new pharmaceutical advances in treating the disease are happening every day can provide current and future MS sufferers a large amount of comfort and will also help delay the decline of the disease.