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Types of Multiple Sclerosis

- 12 November 2008, 07:11

Multiple Sclerosis, an auto-immune disease that destroys the myelin sheaths covering the nerves of the central nervous system, has six different variations, each with its own set of symptoms and severity.

Benign Multiple Sclerosis affects around 5% of MS patients, although about 20% of sufferers are initially diagnosed with this kind of MS. The label ‘benign’ is misleading because it implies that the course of the disease will be slight, when in fact this form of MS can be as disabling as any of the other five types.   Someone suffering from Benign Multiple Sclerosis may not have any progression of their disease after their first attack and they will remain fully functional except for some cognitive dysfunction, short term memory problems and their brain and spinal cord can show some atrophy on an MRI exam.

Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common diagnosis of MS. A person with this form of MS experiences attacks, or flares, which are then followed by complete or partial remission.  Some are led to believe that a remission means cure, but there is no cure for MS.  After successive attacks and remissions, an MS sufferer can expect to left with residual and often permanent impairment as their disease progresses.

Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS) begins with the patient having RRMS (relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis) for several years before the secondary progressive MS begins.  This is a chronic stage of the disease where there are no periods of remission, although some experience shorter attack duration. While there is no recovery from symptoms in this secondary stage of the disease the patient may experience some minor relief.

Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS) is the diagnosis most commonly found in men. This form of the disease is a continuous downward spiral, with no real periods of remission. Men with this form of MS may have some temporary periods of leveling out, but the course of the disease is one of continual progression and debilitation.

Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis (PRMS) is a rare form of the disease in which acute attacks continue, with no plateaus and accumulated symptoms offer no relief for the patient.

Malignant Multiple Sclerosis (Marburg Variant) is a rare, but often fatal variation of MS marked by aggressive attacks which lead to serious disability and often death for its victims within a few weeks or months after the initial attack.

Chronic Progressive Multiple Sclerosis is a term that some doctors use to lump together a couple of definite types of MS, like Secondary Progressive MS, Primary Progressive MS or Progressive Relapsing MS. It’s a catch-all description.

Whatever form of MS that has been diagnosed, it’s important to understand that the person with MS is more than the disease and more than the label of their specific type.


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