Best Ways to Manage an MS Flare


When you have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS), the most prevalent form of the condition, preventing relapses is one of your top concerns so you may continue to live the life you desire. According to the National MS Society, relapses—also known as attacks or flares—occur when you get new symptoms or your existing symptoms worsen. Inflammation in the central nervous system causes these flares, which is what causes MS symptoms in the first place. We polled experts to find out the best techniques to avoid and manage MS flare-ups.

Relapsing-remitting MS is marked by relapses that coincide with the emergence of a new inflammatory lesion in the central nervous system. Relapses, which can last anywhere from a day to many weeks, can cause a variety of symptoms depending on where the inflammation is located. Optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve, which can cause vision loss), partial transverse myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord, which can cause numbness, tingling, or strength or walking impairments), and brain stem syndrome are some of the most "typical" relapses (which can lead to things like double vision).

Find the Best Treatment

Working with your neurologist to make sure you're taking the proper medication for you—and there are more than a dozen to select from—is the most effective strategy to avoid MS flares. Modern treatments are often quite effective at preventing relapses. Disease-modifying medications for MS have been demonstrated to not only prevent relapses, but also to delay the progression of MS-related disability and to restrict new disease activity overall.

Follow Your Doc’s Orders

Once you and your neurologist have devised a specific MS treatment plan, it's critical that you stick to it and keep in frequent communication with your doctor. Maintaining compliance is critical, and if you are having trouble tolerating your medicine, speak with your MS neurologist about your concerns so that a better strategy can be devised.

Relapses Can Be “True” or “Pseudo”

Do you believe you're suffering a relapse? The first step is to inform your doctor. The next stage in a suspected relapse is to make sure it's a true relapse rather than a phantom relapse. A pseudo-flare occurs when you experience an increase or recurrence of MS symptoms that aren't caused by active MS disease but rather by external circumstances. Stressors such as over-activity, heat exposure, or illness such as a cold, flu, or urinary tract infection can cause pseudo-flares. In this instance, it's better to avoid recognized triggers or, if an underlying ailment exists, to get it treated as soon as possible.

Mild Relapses May Not Need Treatment

According to the MS Trust, if you have a real relapse, your doctor will want to go over your symptoms with you and assess whether therapy is essential. True relapses do not always necessitate treatment. If your symptoms, such as slight tingling or numbness, aren't interfering with your ability to engage in daily activities, it's typically fine to wait for them to go away on their own.

Steroids Can Treat Severe Relapses

Your doctor will likely recommend treatment to help you get better faster if you have more severe MS flare-ups, such as vision loss, severe weakness, or anything else that interferes with your ability to work or move safely. If an MS flare occurs, high-dose steroids may be used to help promote a faster recovery, depending on the severity of the symptoms. According to the National MS Society, you'll usually take them for three to five days, either in pill form or via IV.

Post-Relapse Rehab Can Be Helpful

If your relapse has left you with problems with movement, speech, memory, or other aspects of your life, your doctor may advise you to seek support from a rehabilitation team to regain function. Physical, occupational, neurological rehabilitation, or speech therapy are examples of such therapies. These can help with MS symptoms at any point after diagnosis, not only during relapses. Occupational therapists, for example, can assist you in finding solutions to daily duties that have become more difficult owing to fatigue, muscle weakness, and other MS symptoms.