Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological immune-mediated disease where the immune system erroneously attacks the central nervous system.
The layer that covers the nerves called the myelin sheath becomes destroyed and the person develops symptoms such as blurred vision, gait difficulties, slurred speech, numbness, fatigue and memory issues.
MS affects 2.3 million people worldwide and two to three times as many women are affected than men. Its exact cause is unknown.
Most patients are diagnosed with one of two main types of MS
- Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) affects 85 percent of those with MS. These patients have attacks or relapses of increased symptoms followed by periods of partial or complete recovery.
- Primary-progressive MS (PPMS) affects 10 percent of MS patients. These patients have steadily progressive symptoms, without distinct relapses or remissions.
A relapse or flare-up of multiple sclerosis is considered to be the appearance of a new symptom or worsening of an old symptom that lasts over 24 hours, and is not considered to be directly related to another infection in the body.
Relapses can be caused by:
When the body is fighting off an infection, this can increase an additional immune response, which can trigger MS symptoms.
"Urinary tract infections are common causes because some people with MS have reduced bladder function," according to Devon Conway, MD, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic, as reported on EverydayHealth.com.
Any infection can lead to an MS flare, so frequent hand-washing and staying clear of others who are sick is recommended.
While it is recommended that MS patients have vaccinations to avoid developing infections, live virus vaccines such as the flu mist should be avoided.
Vaccines for yellow fever and for shingles are usually not recommended, reported ConsultantLive.com, but should be discussed with the patient’s doctor.
3) Postpartum period
Some studies have shown that MS symptoms can flare up during the postpartum period.