Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that can progress (get worse) over time. Some MS progression is noticeable, such as worsening symptoms. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even when your symptoms appear stable, you still should work closely with your doctor to monitor the condition.
There are 4 main types of MS, each with its own pattern of progression:
- Relapsing-remitting MS: Clearly defined relapses (attacks) with partial or complete recovery in between relapses (affects around 85% of people with MS).
- Secondary progressive MS: Affects about 50% of people with relapsing-remitting MS after 10 years. There are periods of worsening and improvement, but MS steadily worsens overall.
- Primary progressive MS: No clear relapses, but over a period of years, there is a gradual loss of physical and cognitive (thinking, memory, and planning) functions (affects about 10% of all people with MS).
- Progressive-relapsing MS: Relapses with or without some recovery and steadily worsens over time (affects about 5% of people with MS).
A study has found that, among people with relapses and progression, the number of relapses a person had in the first 2 years affected their risk of progression:
- People with more relapses in the first 2 years had a faster progression of MS, and became disabled sooner than those who had fewer relapses in the first 2 years.
- Even having one extra relapse in the first 2 years increased the risk of faster MS progression.
Learn what you can do to manage your MS and reduce your risk of MS symptom progression.
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