It’s important to know that a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis will not necessarily mean the same thing for everyone – the symptoms related to the condition can vary to a significant degree between people with MS, and they can also experience these conditions with very different regularities throughout their lives as well. This can make it hard for a doctor to diagnose MS, and it is also possible for your own diagnosis to change throughout your life as your symptoms and flare-ups change. In this article, we take a look at how multiple sclerosis can change over time to give you a better idea of how someone’s diagnosis might not stay consistent.
Familiarising yourself with the different forms of MS
It’s a useful step to first point out that there are a few types of multiple sclerosis. Knowing your current form of MS is helpful to ensure you better understand how to manage your own symptoms, and the expectation can help you better prepare for bouts of symptoms. There are three kinds of MS that have been established: relapsing-remitting MS, secondary-progressive MS, and primary-progressive MS. People with relapsing-remitting MS will suffer attacks with worsening symptoms (relapses), followed by either a full, partial or no recovery. Flares change over several days to weeks and recovery can sometimes take months, but during this time the symptoms do not get worse. People with secondary-progressive MS find their symptoms get steadily worse. These cases usually follow relapsing-remitting MS, but the change could happen right after MS symptoms appear, or even decades later. Finally, people with primary-progressive MS find their symptoms gradually get worse without any relapses or remissions. It has been found that approximately 15% of people with MS have primary-progressive, but it is usually diagnosed in people over the age of 40.
Multiple sclerosis and relapses
Multiple sclerosis relapses occur as a result of nerves in the brain and spinal cord become inflamed. These irritated nerves subsequently lose their myelin coating, called myelin, which acts as a protective barrier. A plaque then forms around the nerves –this plaque, whether it be in the brain or the spinal cord, alters electrical signals that are carried down nerves, making them slower, distorted, or causing them to cease moving altogether. Depending on how the nerves are affected, a person can experience either minor or severe problems, and there’s no telling when the issue will stop – it could take days or months in some cases. It’s also possible that a relapse occurs not due to your MS, but because something has aggravated your MS in some way. This might be due to an illness, a fever, an infection, or even hot weather. This is what is known as a pseudo-relapse.
Looking towards the future
Although a diagnosis of MS is based on the symptoms you currently experience and how and when they flare up (or improve, for that matter), it’s a good idea to keep in mind that this is not necessarily constant – a diagnosis can change over the course of your life, and as you and your doctor develop a better idea of how your particular case of multiple sclerosis behaves, you’ll be able to much more accurately understand how you’ll be affected in the future.