The Types of Multiple Sclerosis
At present 5 types of Multiple Sclerosis have been identified...
Multiple sclerosis is an extremely unpredictable disease and its extent and nature in any one patient is only really known over a period of time.
Initial diagnosis of how a person's MS is going to develop is difficult but generally medics believe there are a number of distinct patterns relating to the course of the disease which lead them to divide it up into five distinct types.
1. Relapse remitting MS
This is the most common form of the disease and is the type most people are initially diagnosed with. Basically it means you have relapses when there is a flare up of symptoms, followed by remissions when you are symptom free.
Relapses are very unpredictable and can occur once or twice a year, last for days, weeks or months and can be severe or mild. You might even go several years without a relapse. In a relapse the disease is very active and the nerves in the brain and spinal cord are being damaged. New symptoms may appear or the old ones could worsen.
In remission sufferers have fewer or no symptoms. In the early stages of this type sufferers are generally symptom free during remission. However, after several relapses residual damage can occur to the nerves resulting in a person being slightly more affected than before.
2. Secondary progressive MS
This starts in the same way as relapse remitting Multiple Sclerosis but after a few relapses the remission periods slowly begin to stop and the disease moves into a progressive phase. This type is diagnosed if there is an incomplete recovery from relapses and the symptoms continue to get worse. This usually happens within 20 years of onset. Around 65% of people diagnosed with relapse-remitting MS go on to develop secondary progressive MS.
3. Primary progressive Multiple Sclerosis
This affects around 15% of people with MS and is characterized by a lack of attacks and remissions. The symptoms creep up slowly and steadily get worse. These symptoms can eventually level off or continue to progress. People with this type of multiple sclerosis tend to be diagnosed when they are older. About 85% of sufferers with this form of the disease develop walking difficulties because, unlike relapse-remitting MS in which nerve damage is found in both the brain and spinal cord, the disease primarily attacks the spinal cord. They are unlikely to have the cognitive problems associated with damage to the brain. Doctors don't know why this happens.
4. Benign MS
This type usually starts with one or two mild attacks - mainly affecting the sensory functions - followed by complete recovery. It doesn't worsen over time and there is no permanent disability. Benign MS can only really be identified when people have very little sign of disability 10 to 15 years after the onset. Initially a person would have been diagnosed with relapse-remitting MS. About 15% of multiple sclerosis sufferers have this type of the disease.
5. Progressive relapsing MS
This is a very rare form with just 5% of sufferers diagnosed with it. The disease is progressive from the outset with clear acute attacks and symptom flare ups. In between relapses the patient's symptoms continue to get worse.