Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects different people in
different ways. For people who have only mild symptoms from time to time, the
disease may not have much impact on their everyday lives. People with more
severe MS have frequently recurring or ongoing symptoms and may become disabled
within a few years.
Most people with MS are between these extremes. For them, MS involves
a series of attacks that cause symptoms. These attacks are called relapses,
flares, or exacerbations. They may last for days or weeks and then partially or
completely go away. Relapses may be mild or severe and tend to recur over a
period of years. They may become worse and more frequent over time, with
symptoms becoming more severe and disabling. For most people with MS, the
disease follows a
relapsing-remitting course, at least at first. In 8 to 9 out of 10 people with this type of MS, the relapsing-remitting phase lasts about 20 years.footnote 1
A diagnosis of MS can be difficult to accept for the thousands of
healthy, active people whom the disease strikes without warning. Though rarely
life-threatening, MS has no cure. Most people live with the disease for
decades. But many face increasing disability as they get older.
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