Multiple Sclerosis Remission: How to Feel Your Best

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a long-term disease, but there are ways you can calm symptoms and reach remission. Learn more about how to live well with MS. In multiple sclerosis (MS), your immune system goes awry and attacks the protective coating (myelin sheath) that insulates nerve fibers within your brain, spinal cord, and eyes. This may cause a variety of symptoms, including numbness, weakness, and

In multiple sclerosis (MS), your immune system goes awry and attacks the protective coating (myelin sheath) that insulates nerve fibers within your brain, spinal cord, and eyes. This may cause a variety of symptoms, including numbness, weakness, and fatigue.

Most people with MS experience a relapsing-remitting course in which they have relapses, or flare-ups, of new or worsening symptoms followed by periods of recovery, called remission.

Even though MS cannot be cured, periods of remission can be lengthened by taking disease-modifying drugs. Healthy lifestyle habits, medications to ease symptoms, and rehabilitation therapies can help you feel your best during remission.

This article reviews how MS is managed during a relapse and once in remission. You'll also read about various coping strategies that may help you navigate this unpredictable disease.

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Treatment for MS Relapses

Treatment for an MS relapse is generally recommended if your symptoms are bothersome or interfere with your daily functioning, like losing your vision or being unable to walk. Mild MS relapses do not usually require treatment.

For moderate or severe MS relapses, your neurologist will likely prescribe a high-dose corticosteroid (also called a steroid). Steroids counter the inflammation that is occurring in your brain and spinal cord. This can shorten the time you are experiencing MS symptoms, allowing for a quicker return to your normal activities.

Downside of Steroid Treatment

Steroids do not offer a long-term benefit to people with MS. Steroids also are associated with possible serious side effects. Your doctor will consider these factors when deciding whether to treat your relapse with steroids.

A typical treatment regimen for an MS relapse is a three-to-seven-day course of Solumedrol (methylprednisolone) or prednisone. Solumedrol is given intravenously (through your vein) in a hospital or doctor's office. Prednisone is given by mouth and can be taken at home.

If you cannot take steroids, your neurologist may prescribe intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) or adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) gel injections.

Rarely, plasmapheresis (a blood-filtering procedure) may be considered for severe relapses that do not get better with steroids.

Staying in Remission

Once your relapse has ended, it's important to take a disease-modifying drug to help you stay in remission.

Medication and Therapy

There are different types of MS disease-modifying treatments (DMTs), and all have been found to reduce the number of MS relapses. DMTs also slow the progression of MS and reduce the development of new lesions (areas of inflammation) in the brain and spinal cord.

That said, disease-modifying drugs do not treat daily MS symptoms. Other medications and various rehabilitation therapies can help you manage your symptoms and function your best on a daily basis.

Lifestyle Changes

Healthy lifestyle behaviors can also help you feel well and stay healthy during remission. Certain ones may even keep you in remission or prevent pseudo-relapses (a temporary increase in symptoms without MS-related inflammation in the brain or spinal cord).

As an example, infection is a possible trigger for MS relapses or pseudo-relapses. You can prevent infection by undergoing your annual flu shot and washing your hands frequently.

Other healthy habits to adopt include:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in fiber and low in saturated fat
  • Engaging in an activity that you enjoy and that keeps you active, including yoga, tai chi, or water aerobics
  • Following healthy sleep habits that are right for you, such as taking short naps throughout the day to combat symptoms like weakness and fatigue

Coping With Multiple Sclerosis

MS affects everyone uniquely, meaning no two people experience the same symptoms, response to treatment, or impact on daily life. Coping with MS requires self-compassion and a willing attitude on your part.

Try to focus your energy on the parts of your life that you can control like taking your disease-modifying drug and having a positive mindset.

Other useful coping strategies include:

  • Finding an MS doctor you trust and are comfortable communicating with
  • Staying up to date on the latest MS research
  • Caring for your emotional well-being—consider journaling, meditating, or joining a support group

Ongoing Research

Even though you may feel discouraged that there is no cure yet for MS, current research findings are promising and provide much hope. Scientists are digging deep and working hard to find the genetic and environmental causes or triggers of MS in order to find a cure.

Ongoing MS research is also focused on how to slow the disease down in ways that would work better than current DMTs, repair myelin sheath damage that's been done, and help people regain function through various rehabilitation therapies.

Summary

Most patients with MS experience isolated attacks or relapses of symptoms followed by periods of remission. Taking a disease-modifying drug can help you stay in remission and prevent new MS relapses. Rehabilitation therapies, medications to treat symptoms, and healthy lifestyle habits can help optimize your functioning in between relapses.

A Word From Verywell

MS is an unpredictable disease, so it's normal to feel vulnerable or anxious about when your next MS relapse may strike. During these times, try to redirect your emotions towards being as healthy as possible and taking your DMT as prescribed. Remember that your DMT is the only therapy (as of now) that offers a long-term, big picture solution to your MS care.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What treatment can be used to slow the progression of multiple sclerosis?

    Taking a disease-modifying treatment (DMT) can reduce the number of relapses you have and slow the natural progression of your MS.

  • What does MS remission feel like?

    For some people during remission, their symptoms go away completely. Others continue to experience ongoing symptoms that may become permanent.

  • How long can MS be in remission?

    There is no exact timeline. MS remission may last weeks, months, or even years.

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