What is relapsing remitting MS (RRMS)?

Relapsing remitting MS is a pattern of new and old symptoms getting worse (relapses) followed by recovery (remission). 

In MS, a relapse is the appearance of new symptoms or the aggravation of old ones, lasting at least twenty-four hours (synonymous with attack, relapse, flare-up, or worsening).

The remission period is when you have no new MS symptoms  but you may still experience flare-ups of old symptoms, particularly if you have an infection or a period of stress. 

As you can see from our diagram, the path of RRMS can be a changeable one. You can see that with RRMS a person often experiences an initial attack of aggressive symptoms and then good or complete recovery. You might then have remission with months or years with no symptoms.

Relapses tend to become less frequent over the years, with less and less recovery after each relapse. This of course, is not the case for everyone. 

66% of people with RRMS develop Secondary Progressive MS after 25 years, although this figure is falling as our understanding of the condition, and treatments, improve.   

Different type of RRMS

RRMS Symptoms

Symptoms vary, depending on where lesions occur in the brain or spinal cord.

‘Relapsing-remitting’ is actually a misnomer, as damage can continue between attacks during periods of so-called remission, unless the disease is stabilized. This may be visible on MRI scans, and reflects the “iceberg phenomenon” associated with MS. The clinical symptoms don’t always give the complete picture, with often as many as 10 new lesions for each relapse.

Common symptoms of RRMS include:

Treatment for RRMS

Every person’s course is different with RRMS — the symptoms, number of relapses, and the severity and frequency. The unpredictability can make you feel at a loss as to what to do, but there are many ways of taking back control. You can often improve your symptoms by making some lifestyle changes with determination and support. This can also help to slow progression.

Medications are designed to reduce relapse rates and some slow disease progression. 

Relapsing remitting medication can include: 

  • Steroids – during acute relapses 

  • Ocrelizumab (which is a recent drug to be prescribed — there are always others in the pipeline)

Proactive treatment includes:

Do you want to do anything you can to feel better? The Overcoming MS Program combines all of the treatments above for an all-encompassing approach.