Types of MS - National Multiple Sclerosis Society

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Types of MS

Four disease courses have been identified in multiple sclerosis: relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), primary-progressive MS (PPMS), secondary-progressive MS (SPMS), and progressive-relapsing MS. Each of these disease courses might be mild, moderate or severe.

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Diagnosed in 2000

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Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)

RRMS — the most common disease course — is characterized by clearly defined attacks of worsening neurologic function. These attacks — also called relapses, flare-ups or exacerbations — are followed by partial or complete recovery periods (remissions), during which symptoms improve partially or completely and there is no apparent progression of disease. Approximately 85 percent of people with MS are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS.

 

Chart with increasing disability over time with Relapsing-remitting MSChart with increasing disability over time with Relapsing-remitting MS

 

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Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)

The name for this course comes from the fact that it follows after the relapsing-remitting course. Most people who are initially diagnosed with RRMS will eventually transition to SPMS, which means that the disease will begin to progress more steadily (although not necessarily more quickly), with or without relapses.

 

 

 

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Learn More About SPMS

Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)

PPMS is characterized by steadily worsening neurologic function from the beginning. Although the rate of progression may vary over time with occasional plateaus and temporary, minor improvements, there are no distinct relapses or remissions. About 10 percent of people with MS are diagnosed with PPMS.

 

 

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Learn More About PPMS

Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS)

PRMS — the least common of the four disease courses — is characterized by steadily progressing disease from the beginning and occasional exacerbations along the way. People with this form of MS may or may not experience some recovery following these attacks; the disease continues to progress without remissions.

 

 

Learn More About PRMS

Learn More About PRMS

Treatments for MS

Most of the available disease-modifying therapies used to treat MS are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat “relapsing forms” of MS, which include RRMS as well as SPMS and PRMS in those individuals who continue to experience relapses. People who have PPMS, SPMS, or PRMS without relapses, have “progressive MS.” Scientists around the world are actively working to find effective treatments for progressive forms of MS. And, addressing the challenges of progressive MS is a primary target of the Society’s research strategy to stop MS, restore function and end MS forever.

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Relapsing MS
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Relapsing MS

Progressive MS
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Progressive MS

Managing MS

Getting the care you need

Managing MS is an ongoing process, beginning with the very first symptoms and continuing throughout the disease course. It’s never too soon or too late to think about how to access high quality care. Knowing what to look for, where to find it, and how to work effectively with your doctor and other health professionals is essential to your health and quality of life.