When someone is diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, they are warned about a relapse. They want to know more about it and what steps they can or should take to prevent it. In this article, we will answer some of these questions.
What is an MS Relapse?
Devon Conway, MD, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic, explains an MS relapse as follows: “When a new neurological symptom develops in multiple sclerosis, one that isn’t related to an infection, and lasts for more than 24 hours, it is considered to be an MS relapse.”
Causes of an MS Relapse
Around 80% of MS patients are diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS. “Although a flare or relapse can occur without any warning, certain triggers are common,” says Matthew McCoyd, MD.
The following are common causes of MS flare ups.
Stress and Anxiety – Stress is a part of life and no one can hide from it. It is also an inevitable component of a chronic disease, in our case; MS. Stress with MS can lead to confusion and depression, common MS symptoms. A study published in Psychol Med, in 2014, shows that stress is one of the common triggers of MS flare-ups and can impact the course of the disease.
Infections – Infections are responsible for relapses in one out of three cases. In a research paper published in 1994 by Panitch HS, strong correlation was found between Upper Respiratory Infections (URIs), illnesses caused by an acute infection in the upper respiratory organs and MS relapses. The paper proved that infections lead to MS relapses.
Just like URIs, Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs are also common causes of an MS relapse. About UTIs, Dr. Conway says, “Urinary Tract Infections are common causes because some people with MS have reduced bladder function.”
URIs and UTIs are not visible (asymptomatic) to the human eyes, but regardless of those being invisible, every infection which weakens the immune system, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, may cause flares.
Heat Exposure – “In the old days, a hot-bath test was one of the ways doctors diagnosed MS,” notes Dr. McCoyd. This is because heat worsens symptoms in MS patients. For this reason, having fever is especially troublesome for MS patients. This means issues increase for MS patients during the summer season and warm climate. Life is therefore, very difficult for MS patients who live in Pakistan, a country where summers are very long.
Fatigue – Lack of proper rest, fatigue and over exertion all worsen your symptoms. Without a proper sleeping habit, you can risk getting a relapse. Make sure you adopt healthy habits and lifestyle, eat well, sleep well and exercise every day to help fight MS fatigue.
Smoking – It is no longer cool to light a cigarette. It increases your chances to get a relapse. Your doctor can help you get rid of this habit.
Other triggers – You can increase your chances to get a relapse if you skip your medications. According to a study, one-fourth of patients who abandoned their medications suffered a relapse.
These are some of the common causes of an MS relapse. There may be other triggering factors, such as cold intolerance, changes in your diet and so on. Make sure you identify your triggering factors so you can avoid them.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post where we’ll share MS Relapse Treatments and Preventions.