A relapse is a relatively sudden (over hours or days) episode of new symptoms or worsening of existing multiple sclerosis symptoms. Other names used for a relapse include an attack, a flare up, an episode, a blip or an exacerbation.
To be considered a new relapse:
- it must last for at least 24 hours but more commonly for a number of weeks
- it must occur at least 30 days after the start of a previous relapse
- there must be no other explanation for the onset of symptoms such as an infection or a rise in body temperature
If you suspect you may be having a relapse, you should contact your MS team or your GP. It is important to do this, even if you don't think you need any additional treatment, as it helps to build up a picture of how active your MS is and affects future decisions about disease modifying drugs.
Not all relapses need treatment, symptoms will generally improve on their own. If the symptoms of your relapse are causing significant problems, your MS team or GP may suggest a short course of high dose steroids. Steroids may help you recover more quickly from the relapse but won’t affect how well you recover or the long-term course of your MS.
Disease modifying drugs reduce the frequency and severity of relapses.
Last updated: October 2017
Last reviewed: October 2017
This page will be reviewed within three years