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Types of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS has been categorized into several types based on the progression of symptoms. They are:

Relapsing-remitting (RRMS, 80%). Most persons diagnosed with MS have the relapsing remitting type. With this form, individuals experience a series of periodic flare-ups followed by a time of partial or complete recovery. Within 25 years, most persons with RRMS will enter a second phase termed secondary-progressive MS (SPMS). This phase is characterized by a progressive worsening of symptoms.

A smaller group of persons with RRMS will not get worse but continue the periodic relapses with little or no ongoing disability.

Primary-progressive (PPMS, 15%). Persons with this type of MS experience a gradual worsening of symptoms from the onset.

Progressive-relapsing (PRMS) and malignant (5%). Persons with progressive-relapsing MS experience a gradual worsening of symptoms and acute relapses. The malignant form of MS follows a course of rapid progression of worsening symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis  - Treatment

At the present there is no treatment to prevent or cure MS.  There are, however, a number of treatments for MS and its symptoms that have proven effective in clinical trials. Disease modifying drugs (beta interferons) work to modulate or suppress the immune system thereby reducing the severity or delaying the onset of symptoms.  These drugs have been shown to be more effective if started immediately after diagnosis rather than later. A physician prescription and consultation is required to match the appropriate medication to the disease course of MS experienced by the individual. Each drug affects the body differently, has different side effects and is administered in a different manner.

Generally speaking these disease modifying drugs are expensive and one should weigh the costs against expected benefits. A flare-up or an attack of MS symptoms is caused by an area of inflammation in the CNS. These flare-ups, or exacerbations as physicians call them, are usually treated with corticosteroids. Steroids are hormones produced by the adrenal gland in the body and  are used to reduce the inflammation. Blood plasma exchange (plasmapheresis) may be considered for some individuals who do not respond well to steroid treatment.

Treatment of other MS symptoms are as varied as the symptoms and may be addressed the same as for non-MS individuals. In addition, rehabilitation may be prescribed to restore or maintain function in persons with MS who have lost these capabilities through the disease process.

Persons with MS often seek out clinically unproven treatments for the wide range of symptoms they experience - especially if the prescribed treatment has been ineffective. These complementary and alternative medicines come from many disciplines and traditions. They can include special diets, vitamin supplements, life-style changes and mental exercises. Before beginning such a program, discuss it with your physician. He/she can tell you if your proposed self-administered program will interfere with your currently prescribed treatment.

Prognosis - Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Everyone is different and the progression of symptoms over the course of the disease is highly variable. Some persons with MS are severely affected; they need a wheelchair for mobility and have trouble speaking and writing. However, most people with MS have mild symptoms and a normal life expectancy.


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