A relapse is defined as the development of new symptoms or a worsening of existing symptoms that last longer than 24 hours.1 Although relapses are common in MS they are extremely difficult to predict in terms of timing and symptom severity.
Although you may not be able to prepare for relapses, the process of recognising, recording, reporting and reviewing your relapses can help you and your specialist team manage the condition better.
Look out for changing symptoms lasting more than 24 hours.1
Keep track of changing symptoms to build up a clear picture.
Talk to your MS team if you notice a change that affects daily life.
Consider treatment or a change in treatment.
Relapses – what to look for
Patients describe their MS relapse symptoms and how they spot them.
MS symptom management
Relapses are a constant threat for people with MS. However, it’s important not to let the fear of a relapse take over your life.
Whilst it’s impossible to predict your symptoms, or their severity, there are things you can do to prepare yourself for a relapse and to help yourself get back on track after the relapse has passed:
- Keep fit – Fighting relapse takes physical strength, so it’s important to exercise, or at least stay active, whenever you can. Exercise improves feelings of wellbeing too. For exercise tips visit the Living Like You website.
- Boost balance – A study by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society found that games using the Nintendo WiiTM Balance Board can improve mobility, helping to strengthen the impulses between brain and body.2
- On the front foot – Ankle–foot orthotics can help people with MS by giving rigid support for foot drop and gait problems.
- Manage pain – Rubbing scented oils on temples or other areas of discomfort can calm the body and reduce pain. Limiting noise and the exposure to cold air using scarves can be useful for head pain, particularly trigeminal neuralgia.
- Extreme measures – Carry water spray, a hat and cool clothing to guard against extreme heat, even in the winter when heating can affect your MS. In the summer, plan any activities around the coolest parts of the day.
- Eat well – Fatty snack foods may be tempting when you want to lift your mood, but maintaining a healthy balanced diet may help ease some of your symptoms, e.g. omega-3-rich fish or flaxseed have been shown to cut relapse rate.2 For more dietary advice, see the Living Like You website.