Text Size: a  |   a 

How to Manage Multiple Sclerosis Relapses

June 7, 2017

Multiple sclerosis relapses (also known as flares, attacks, or exacerbations) are when the patient experiences new disease activity. This could include old or new symptoms, like vision or difficulty walking or balancing. For these symptoms to be classified as a relapse, they have to last at least 24 hours and be separated from the previous relapse by a month. Relapses can last for days, weeks, or months. According to the National MS Society, those who have relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) will have relapses followed by a long period of remission, where there is no new disease activity. However, those in remission will often find that they still have ongoing MS-related symptoms.

The treatment for relapses depends on how the body is affected and the severity of the symptoms. Some mild relapses may not need any treatment, while more severe ones will need intravenous corticosteroids. If patients cannot take intravenous corticosteroids or they are ineffective, their doctor may prescribe H.P. Acthar Gel (ACTH). ACTH is a hormone injection designed to stimulate the adrenal cortex gland to produce aldosterone, cortisol, and corticosterone. Around 10% of MS patients who experience severe relapses will require a plasma exchange. Patients may also need to undergo rehabilitation, which may involve various health professionals, such as cognitive specialists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language therapists.