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What’s the Difference Between an MS Flare-Up and Relapse?

By Daryl H. Bryant (403 words)
Posted in Living with MS on November 30, 2018

There are (1) comments permalink

What’s the Difference Between an MS Flare-Up and Relapse?

Wondering what the difference is between an MS flare-up and a relapse? You’ve come to the right place. It turns out that there isn’t actually a difference between an MS flare-up and relapse; they’re just different names for the same thing. However, there’s still a lot to learn about these frustrating events. Read on to learn what causes MS flare-ups and relapses, and how to recognize when you are experiencing one.

What Causes MS Flare-Ups and Relapses?

MS flare ups and relapses are a natural part of relapsing remitting MS (RRMS). Each episode is separated by approximately 30 days of improved or disappearing symptoms. MS flare-ups and relapses can occur randomly, without anything specific triggering them. Still, it appears that the following things can increase your likelihood of experiencing a flare-up: getting sick, high stress, lack of sleep, smoking, low vitamin D levels, and skipping medication. Learn more about what causes MS flare-ups and relapses.

What is a Pseudoexacerbation?

It’s important to remember that not all worsening of MS symptoms indicates a flare-up or relapse. In order to qualify as an MS flare-up or relapse, symptoms must last more than  24 hours. If you experience a temporary worsening of symptoms that does neet meet the qualifications of an MS flare-up or relapse, you may be experiencing a pseudoexacerbation. Many people with MS experience pseudoexacerbations when their body gets overheated (or in more rare cases, when they get cold). Whether from taking a hot bath, going for a run on a warm day, or sitting in a hot tub, increased body temperature can temporarily increase your MS symptoms, but your symptoms will improve when your body temperature returns to normal. These are not flare-ups or relapses because they don’t last more than a few hours, but they can still be problematic. Learn how to beat the heat and avoid pseudoexacerbation.

How to Treat MS Flare-Ups and Relapses

If you are experiencing a flare-up or relapse, you need to talk to your doctor. Less severe symptoms may be tolerable enough to leave untreated, but be sure to take care of your health while your body is recovering. If your symptoms are severe, your doctor may suggest a high dose of corticosteroids, plasmapheresis, physical therapy, and/or other treatment.

Want to learn more? Learn how to overcome an MS flare-up and 4 tips for managing an MS relapse.

Comments (1)

margret posted on: July 3, 2020


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