What is Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2019
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Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis is the most common form of multiple sclerosis, or MS. Patients with this type of multiple sclerosis typically develop symptoms that go away during a remission phase and return later during a relapse phase. Remission phases may last for weeks, years or even decades. The number of relapse and remission cycles usually varies from patient to patient.

Multiple sclerosis is a medical condition that causes degeneration of a person’s nerves in their brain and spinal cord. Patients with this condition develop inflammation in the myelin sheath that covers the nerves. The myelin sheath erodes and disappears as a result of this inflammation, and the transmission of electrical signals in the affected nerves often becomes significantly slower. Nerve damage occurs as multiple sclerosis worsens, and patients generally have difficulties with everyday functions such as speaking, walking and writing, as well as vision and memory.

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients may experience a variety of symptoms that can be mild, moderate or severe in intensity. Weakness of the arms and legs, muscle spasms and vision disturbances have been reported in some cases of this disease. Multiple sclerosis patients may notice tremors, dizziness and a reduction in the kinds of physical sensations that people with healthy nervous systems usually experience. In some instances, relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis patients develop depression, paranoia and uncontrolled emotional outbursts such as weeping or laughing.


Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis have symptoms that typically increase in severity over time, and they may not be evaluated by a doctor until months or years after the symptoms begin. Physicians usually have patients undergo medical tests to measure the extent of nerve damage from multiple sclerosis. Magnetic resonance imaging tests of the brain often provide detailed images of the progression of the disease. An electro-physiological test measures the speed of nerve impulses, and laboratory analysis of cerebrospinal fluid can identify antibodies related to multiple sclerosis.

Many neurologists treat relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis with disease-modifying drugs to slow the progression of the condition and reduce future relapses. Patients may receive corticosteroid drugs to improve pain and other physically-disabling symptoms. Some multiple sclerosis patient experience fewer relapses and longer periods of time between relapses when they receive treatment with an interferon drug. Doctors may also prescribe other drugs to combat the relapsing and remitting form of multiple sclerosis depending on the individual needs of a specific patient.

Some multiple sclerosis patients develop other forms of the disease besides relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. Patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis may develop secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis, a form of this disorder that typically includes fewer relapses combined with an increase in a patient’s level of physical disability. Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis patients usually experience a gradual and continuous decline in their physical abilities without a cycle of remission and relapse. Other forms of the disease generally occur less frequently and may cause unusually mild symptoms or an abnormally rapid progression of multiple sclerosis.


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