MS In America – Relapse Frequency and Duration

Last updated: January 2023

MS relapses occur when you experience new symptoms or when existing symptoms suddenly worsen. To be considered a relapse, these symptoms must last for at least 24 hours. Relapses are considered separate incidents when they occur at least 30 days apart. They are also referred to as attacks, exacerbations, or flares.1

Relapses are caused by inflammation in the central nervous system. The location of the inflammation can affect the type of symptoms you experience. Inflammation can also occur in more than one place. Individuals with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS), the most common type of MS, typically experience clearly defined relapses followed by periods of remission when the inflammation has ended.1

Frequency, duration, and severity of MS relapses/exacerbations can vary dramatically from one person to the next. The unpredictability of these relapses is one of the many frustrating aspects of MS.2

In Health Union's 2013 MS in America Survey, just over a third of respondents noted that they experienced relapses less than once a year. The remaining responses ranged from once a month to once a year, with most relapses lasting from one week to one month:

relapses

relapses2

How often do you experience relapses and how long do symptoms last? Please share in the comments! 

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Have you noticed any trends with when your relapses occur?

The 2013 MS in America Study was conducted online from November 2012 until January 2013. The survey was completed by 2,562 people.

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