The type of MS you have can affect how often you experience symptoms as well as when and how disability develops. It can also impact the options you have for managing your MS.
Radiologically isolated syndrome (RIS): At this stage, there are changes in your brain that may look like MS, but no noticeable symptoms to indicate a problem
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): You’ve had one isolated attack of symptoms that may appear to be due to MS, but you can’t yet be diagnosed with MS
Relapsing remitting MS (RRMS): The majority of people living with MS (about 85%) are diagnosed with RRMS. RRMS is characterised by relapses (periods of worsening symptoms) followed by remissions (extended periods of good or complete recovery). You might hear your doctor or MS nurse mention something called the McDonald criteria, which can help them to make a diagnosis after only one relapse if they have enough information from your MRI scans.
Symptoms may initially be reversible, but they can become permanent as the disease progresses. Over time, damage can build up and become too difficult for the brain to repair. This can lead to permanent symptoms. RRMS can progress to SPMS, especially if it’s left untreated.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): Without the right treatment, 50—60% of people living with RRMS will go on to develop SPMS within 15—20 years after their MS diagnosis. SPMS is characterised by a progressive decline in function and increase in disability – with or without periods of relapse and remission. However, the rate at which this happens can vary a great deal from one person to another.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): A form of MS in which disability increases from the beginning of their MS disease. About 10% of people living with MS are diagnosed with this type.
The experience you may have living with PPMS may vary significantly from other people with PPMS. People generally experience a continuous increase in disability, but this can happen at different rates. Some may experience a more gradual worsening of symptoms, while others may find that their symptoms stop worsening for long periods of time.