Managing and Treating MS Flare-Ups

Most signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be managed effectively with rehabilitation, medication, and other therapies

Medically Reviewed by Ben W. Thrower, M.D.

There is currently no cure for multiple sclerosis (MS). Treatment focuses on managing symptoms, reducing relapses (periods when symptoms worsen), slowing the disease’s progression, restoring function, and minimizing the impact on your day-to-day life.

A comprehensive treatment plan may include the following: 

  • Disease-Modifying Therapies (DMTs)
  • Relapse management therapies
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Health and wellness strategies

Preventing a Multiple Sclerosis Flare-Up

Most forms of MS involve stretches of time when you feel good and other times when your symptoms act up. The latter periods may be referred to as:

  • Attacks
  • Relapses
  • Flare-ups
  • Episodes
  • Exacerbations 

What Causes MS Flare-Ups

Varying from mild to severe, MS flare-ups may cause new symptoms and/or the exacerbation of existing symptoms. Some flare-ups produce only one symptom related to inflammation in a single area of the central nervous system. Other flare-ups cause two or more symptoms simultaneously related to inflammation in more than one area of the central nervous system. To be a true exacerbation, the attack must last at least 24 hours and be separated from the previous attack by at least 30 days.

MS Flare-Up Symptoms

During an MS flare-up, a person may experience new or worsening MS symptoms. However, each person may experience slightly different or unique symptoms. Common symptoms of MS flare-ups include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Balance and coordination problems
  • Vision trouble
  • Bladder issues
  • Numb or tingling feelings (pins and needles)
  • Memory problems
  • Trouble concentrating

MS Flare-Up Treatment

There is no cure for multiple sclerosis. MS flare-up treatment focuses on quickening recovery from attacks, managing symptoms, and slowing the disease progression. Treatment options may include:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce nerve inflammation
  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis)
  • Infusion treatments
  • Oral treatments
  • Injectable treatments
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Physical, occupational, and/or speech therapy

Where should I go for MS Treatment? 

Shepherd Center offers comprehensive care and services for people diagnosed with MS. The Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute — which encompasses the MS medical clinic, the Eula C. and Andrew C. Carlos Rehabilitation and Wellness programs, and research — is one of the country's most renowned MS care and treatment services.

 Learn more about  MS treatment at the MS Institute

The Andrew C. Carlos Multiple Sclerosis Institute at Shepherd Center

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2020 Peachtree Road NW
Atlanta, GA 30309-1465

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8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET