Multiple Sclerosis Flare-Ups. What is a MS flare-up? What is your experience of a MS relapse? Please take part in our research and discussion blog!


I’ve been writing about and researching the stories of people with multiple sclerosis for nearly a

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

decade.  In that time I’ve learnt that one of the really big issues is a multiple sclerosis flare-up.  Something which rightly concerns all of us in the MS community.

The aim of this blog is to allow our readers to share their experiences of an MS flare-up.  In particular we are really interested in how you dealt with the flare and what you do to try and prevent another MS flare-up occurring.

Of course flare-ups are a particularly big issue for people with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS).  Indeed the inclusion of relapsing in the name gives the game away somewhat!  It can also be called an exacerbation (which is a bit of an understatement) or simply an attack.

A MS flare up is defined as the appearance of a new symptom or the re-appearance of older symptoms.  This could involve an increase in fatigue, optic neuritis (http://patienttalk.org/?p=312), balancing problems or increased pain.

Timing is an important issue with a flare up.  Technically the symptoms must last for longer than 24 hours and be thirty days after your last exacerbation.  However sometimes the replace can last much longer – months in some cases.

It has been suggested that MS attacks can be triggered by infections or stress.  However research is still on going in this area.


Treatments are typically steroid based attempting to lower the immune system to prevent it from attacking the body.

As we said at the start of the blog we are particularly interested in your experience of MS flare ups.  It would be great if you could use the comments box below to share your experiences.  You may well wish to think about the following questions when formulating your answers:-

a)      Please can you describe your last replace?

b)      How long did it last?

c)       Do you know what triggered the exacerbation?

d)      How did you treat it and how successful was that treatment?

e)      How do you try and prevent a flare up occurring?

Obviously these are just guidelines so please feel free to add anything you think will be of interest to other readers.

Many thanks in advance.

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13 comments
Singlemomof2
Singlemomof2

I was dx in July of this year. So far I have had problems getting a neurologist. The last one said that the lesions are normal and everyone has them. Then I had another doctor tell me the lesions were caused by migraines, I get sinus headaches, but they're not that bad.

Now I am waiting to get to a new neurologist. Since the new one is in the same office as one of my former doctors I have to get his permission to be seen, which is taking months I am about to go up there and not leave until he says that he okays it.

Now everytime I have a relaps, which I am having one now, I have to go to the ER to get any help. They know it is a relaps and prescribe me steroids and gives me some while I am there, but they keep asking me why haven't I seen a neurologist about this yet. I tell them the problem and they call my family doctor and tell him what is going on and he says he can't do anything about it. It is so frustrating, I almost want to give up!

Langham27
Langham27

I was diagnosed with MS 43 years ago at the age of 30.  Only in the last ten years have the symptoms increased.  Fatigue is my greatest challenge.  I am extremely heat sensitive - heat wipes me out.  My right leg feels like a lump of lead and even my stimulator does not help.  I cannot walk far, but put me on our tandem and away she goes - my husband is fatigued far more than me.  The fatigue affects my comprehension and memory - on a good day I am as sharp as a fox, on a bad day mental battery FLAT.  Never know what the next few hours/days will bring. Frustration leads to depression, so I tend to pace myself more these days.  73 next birthday.  Next goal is to reach 80, still on my feet!! An effective treatment etc seems a long time coming, and many of us feel sometimes we are just left to "get on with it"


Had a diabolical period of severe face pain some ten years ago.  Treatment with Carbomazapine and Ammitrytylene were brilliant and thank goodness it never came back.  No other pain to complain of - just sometimes shooting pains when I flex my neck forward and severe cramps in right leg sometimes.  Balance is worse when I am tired.  Fell and broke one rib and badly bruised others a few weeks ago.  On the mend now, but these tripping or falling episodes really knock ones confidence.  Something MS does teach us.... when you lose your balance, don't stiffen up, loosen up - the landing is then less painful and the damage is no so long lasting.


Over time we MSers learn  how to asess how long we need to get to the loo in time!!

invictus582
invictus582

This article is informative but so frustrating to me.  

I was diagnosed in 2010 and had a bad flare up right afterwards and started Copaxone pretty soon after dx.  After that my symptoms were managable but have gotten consistently worse.   I don't think there are any new symptoms (except possibly the noise sensitivity and dyslexia type things that have been happening) but the fatigue, focus, cognitive issues, optic neuritis, etc. have all been consistently worse and now to the point that I have to stop running my business to take medical leave so I can hopefully get things under control. 

When I visit the neuro (and a different neuro I had last year) they all say that it's just ms symptoms and basically nothing can be done (although new neuro recently said to change meds to Tysabri), and even though symptoms are worse it's not considered a relapse.   This has been going on for over a year and it's to a point now where I pretty much don't even like leaving the house. 

Sorry - had to vent.  I wish these Drs could get on the same page.  I'm looking forward to taking medical leave so I can try and get this figured out myself, although that's not the way I think it should be when the Drs are making so much money.  

KimRobinson1
KimRobinson1

Diagnosed 12/08. Last flare up was September 2012. Lasted about 6 weeks. I'm guessing too much "fun in the sun" is what caused this one. Called my neurologist and he set me up on 3 days of steroidal infusions. Cleared up my vision almost immediately:) However I had to use a walker for almost a month because I had weakness and pain in my legs. I felt so old having to use a walker at 31 years old. But its my life, and I'm too determined to be defeated:)

BincyPhilips
BincyPhilips

Hi I've been diagnosed in 2009.....to tell u the truth...I do not know the difference between a flare-up, relapse,and exacerbation.....can anyone tell me....now I think I'm having a flare...ataxic, numbness on both feet and hands....I'm on Rebif and gabapentin....also calcium,vit D3, B12 ....

Loriawilson
Loriawilson

I got diagnosed in Dec 2012.  I have been on Copaxone.  I have only had one flare up since then.  I felt like I was drunk. I was slurring words (not bad but it was noticable).  It lasted 3 days before I called the dr.  He put me back on steroids to help.  Ive been on them for about 8 days and I feel better but still feel kinda "off".  This is my first flare up but I am going to look into changing my diet somewhat to see if that will help with future flareups.

JamesRtidBlake
JamesRtidBlake

My last flare-up was 2years ago and it came out of nowhere, couldn't move my legs properly and i had my toddler son with me, scary. Before that, roughly about 4 and a half years ago, i experienced random twitches, fortunately recovered fully with steroid treatment. Unpredictability is the only word i associate my m.s

HazelHall
HazelHall

Im just getting over one and when it happened i just carried on my day with blurred vision and new symptoms such as bad spine pain and crazy little movements on my leg and side of face and i needed to urinate more often and was very tired. I was dx in feb last year and its been crazy spuradic relapes and flare ups. I have an infection in 2 teeth which triggered the flare up and my monthly cycle doesnt help. But i take primrose oil vit d fish oils vit e and make fresh mix greens and dark berry smoothys which help and cut down on my gluten. Im on gabapentin aswell as avonex. Im begining to feel better.

RachelLaurn
RachelLaurn

I was diagnosed in 1999 and since then, I have had at least 13 MS attacks.Each one was different and affected different parts of my body. One of the most severest was when my Peripheral Nervous System (PNS) shut down. PNS controls our involuntary movements. 


My body temperature went haywire. One minute, I was so hot, I needed ice cubes to cool my skin. The next minute, I was so cold, my hands turned white and wearing gloves inside he house was not enough. I used a heating pad on top of my gloves.


My heart was racing for 2 weeks. I had to take medication to slow my heart down so I didnt have a heart attack. I couldnt stop yawning until I would almost pass out. Digestion was nonfunctional so I could only eat one bite at a meal. My eyes would not work together. I had to cover one eye to see out of the other, without double vision.


But the very worst part was that my equilibrium was NONFUNCTIONAL. I felt as though gravity didnt apply to me and that my body wasnt part of the earth. I cant explain the feeling, only that I was so confused and scared, I wanted to just die and cease to exist immediately because all time had stopped for me - I was in "limbo" trapped inside my body. 


I, therefore, could not go to the hospital, because my body was being ravaged in 10 different ways at once. A nurse came to my home for 3 days and gave me steroids. They did help tremendously but I was not symptom free for about 2 weeks. 


This attack will be scarred in my memory forever. It scares me to even talk about it.

geek1
geek1

a)      Please can you describe your last relapse?

Ongoing. Right side (toes to shoulder) numb, pins & needles, tight, with some lose of strength. Clonus in foot. Unable to use right hand, which I cannot steer. It is also painful. Cannot touch nose with finger (eyes-shut test). Left hand and foot numb. Both thighs stiff. General temperature disturbance.

b)      How long did it last?

Started 3 weeks ago

c)      Do you know what triggered the exacerbation?

Poor diet?

d)      How did you treat it and how successful was that treatment?

High dose IV steroids over 5 days. Unsuccessful

e)      How do you try to prevent a flare up occurring?

Continue with Copaxone. Will go back to a diet low in sugar and fat, and high in vegetables, fruit and lean meat

meekocat
meekocat

a)      Please can you describe your last replace?  Not sure what you mean?  My last relapse was February 20, 2013.


b)      How long did it last?  I am still having symptoms.  Original symptoms were numbness and tingling in both feet with my right foot worse and severe spacisity in my right ankle. 


c)       Do you know what triggered the exacerbation?  I believe a fall down the stairs triggered the relapse.  The only one I had prior to that was October 2011 when I couldn't urinate, had to have a catheter put in, I also suffered from extreme fatigue (felt like I had Mono or something) and slept for almost 4 days straight.  MRI and CT scan done on back to determine cause, none was found.  They never asked or looked for MS.  Looking back now I had a few episodes with getting up with numb feet and saddle area as well as tripping all the time and extreme fatigue.  I just thought it was age-related.  I am 54 now.


d)      How did you treat it and how successful was that treatment?  I was just now DXD on Jan. 2, 2014 with RRMS.  My neuro had me do a 5 day solu-medrol infusion.  Still have numbness and tingling in my feet, but I am walking a little better.


e)      How do you try and prevent a flare up occurring?  I'm supposed to be starting Copaxone injections, still waiting for approval from my insurance.

kathie1026
kathie1026

@JamesRtidBlake When you say, "random twitches," are you talking about the nerves jumping somewhere on your body (it feels like the nerves jumping when your lower eyelid sometimes quivers)?

I can't get anyone to understand what I'm saying when I talk about the "twitches."

Thanks for your reply.