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Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence

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Relapse Management for Multiple Sclerosis

An MS relapse (also known as an MS exacerbation or MS flare) is when inflammation in the brain and/or spinal cord causes a new symptom or worsening of an old symptom. Symptoms from an MS relapse must last over 24 hours, most relapses last from a few days to several weeks or months. Symptoms with a relapse can range from mild to severe. Occasionally, infection, stress, and heat can make old symptoms worse, also called a pseudo-relapse. Unlike an MS relapse, a pseudo-relapse does not reflect new inflammation or MS progression. Your MS specialist can help determine whether worsening symptoms are from an MS relapse or a pseudo-relapse.

Steroid medications may help speed up recovery from a severe relapse, though milder relapses may not require steroids. You and your health care team should make the decision together whether steroids are a good option for you. During and after a relapse, you may need to work with a rehabilitation therapist to help with any changes to your ability to perform activities of daily living. If you think you may be experiencing a relapse, contact your MS specialist right away.

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