Doctors are able to diagnose different types of MS at any stage. Despite an assortment of tests and careful observation of symptoms, determining if MS is present can still be quite difficult. Approximately 50 symptoms have been connected to MS. These symptoms can last for days, weeks, or years at a time, depending on the form of Multiple Sclerosis present. Blood tests, a spinal tap, an MRI, and neurological tests are performed to check for MS. Once the diagnosis of MS has been confirmed, deciding which of the 4 types of MS exists is next.
The 4 forms of MS are characterized by the absence or presence of remission and relapse cycles, as well as how progressive the disease has become. Relapsing-Remitting MS generally has steady cycles of relapse and remission. The individual is able to recover from the relapses during each remission, which usually means the symptoms go away until the next relapse occurs. This form of MS can go on for up to 40 years before it ever evolves into one of the other stages of MS. An average of 85 percent of the individuals diagnosed with MS has RRMS.
Primary-Progressive MS only affects about 10 percent of the MS population and only temporary improvements are seen, if any at all. Individuals with this form of MS get progressively worse over the years. Secondary-Progressive MS is often the next stage for people diagnosed with RRMS. The change from RRMS to SPMS might take as little as 5 years or as many as 40; it will depend on the person.
Progressive-Relapsing MS is so rare that it only affects 5 percent of the MS population; however, it is the most progressive type of all. This form of MS generally causes severe disability over a period of time and remissions don’t typically occur.