Relapsing remitting MS diagnosis

Find out everything you need to know about relapsing remitting MS, why it is different from other types of MS and how RRMS is diagnosed.

diagnosis

Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS) is the most common form of multiple sclerosis. Like all types of MS, it presents its own set of challenges, however with an understanding of how to manage the condition and the right support, you can live a happy and healthy life with RRMS.

Receiving a diagnosis of RRMS can feel like a real turning point in your life, but the Overcoming MS community can equip you for the journey ahead with a wide range of tools. These include practical guides such as the OMS 7-Step Recovery Program which is designed to help you reclaim your life, and also real-life stories from inspiring people who have been in exactly the same position.

What is relapsing remitting MS?

Relapsing remitting MS  is the form which between 65% and 70% of people with MS are diagnosed with. It takes its name from a pattern of new and old symptoms which get worse (relapse) followed by a period of recovery (remission).

A relapse is the appearance of new symptoms, or the worsening of old ones, lasting for 24 hours or more. Remission is a period in which no new MS symptoms present themselves, but flare-ups of existing symptoms can still happen, especially during periods of physical illness or stress.

Everyone’s experience of RRMS is different. Many people experience an initial onset of aggressive symptoms, and this can be followed by a remission period lasting for months or years. Generally, relapses become less frequent over the years but this does not always apply.

There are a number of different forms of RRMS, including benign MS, clinically isolated syndrome and rapidly evolving severe RRMS.  It was previously thought that up to 66% of people with RRMS develop secondary progressive MS after 25 years, but this figure is becoming smaller as understanding of the condition improves, with earlier diagnosis and better treatments.

What are the symptoms of relapsing remitting MS?

During periods of remission, it is still possible for underlying damage to occur with RRMS. The symptoms also vary depending on where lesions occur in the brain or the spinal cord, but in general they tend to include:

How is relapsing remitting MS diagnosed?

RRMS can be diagnosed at any age, but as age increases other conditions can present with similar symptoms. This crossover makes diagnosing any form of MS a potentially complex process.

Like all other types of MS, RRMS is diagnosed using the McDonald criteria, which looks closely at damage to the central nervous system and advocates MRI scans for all patients.  The criteria aims to reach a diagnosis as quickly as possible, so that you can have swift access to the right treatment.

What happens after relapsing remitting MS diagnosis?


After being diagnosed with MS you are likely to experience many feelings, ranging from relief to disbelief. It’s important to give yourself time to process these and to assess your treatment options. Your individual symptoms will determine exactly what happens after diagnosis, but at an early stage there may be certain administrative tasks you need to carry out. These may include notifying the relevant driver licensing authority or informing your employer.

At the OMS community we are here to give you support whenever you need it. If you are struggling to come to terms with a diagnosis, we would advise speaking to your GP as early as possible, as they may be able to refer you for counselling or to other services in your area, helping you to adjust and come to terms with your diagnosis.

How is relapsing remitting MS treated?

The unpredictable nature of RRMS means that the symptoms, frequency and severity of relapses vary from person to person. However, this does not mean there is not a clear path to be taken – you can take control, improve your symptoms and help to slow the progression with lifestyle changes and the right attitude.

Medication for RRMS is designed to reduce the rate of relapses and can include:

We have plenty of information on the things to consider when choosing your medication elsewhere on the website, if you choose to take any.

There are also proactive treatments for RRMS which include:

These treatments form part of a positive and healthy lifestyle, and from day one of diagnosis they can have a real impact on your experience of MS.