What Are the Subtypes of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
all phenotypes of MS
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is thought to be an autoimmune condition with genetic and environmental triggers.

No two cases of multiple sclerosis (MS) are exactly the same. Each person may have a different set of symptoms, and the timing and severity of relapses, as well as disease progression, will differ from person to person. However, doctors and researchers use certain terms to characterize the nature of a person's condition.

There are six distinct forms of MS, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Various forms of MS can assist forecast the course of the illness and a patient's response to therapy.

6 subtypes of MS

Six subtypes of multiple sclerosis (MS) include:

  1. Clinically isolated syndrome:
    • It is a single neurological episode of inflammation or with or without demyelination in the central nervous system lasting at least 24 hours.
  2. Relapsing-remitting MS:
    • It is the most prevalent type of MS that affects about 85 percent of patients with MS.
    • Inflammation of myelin and nerve fibers causes a deterioration of neurologic function.
    • Symptoms vary from patient to patient, and symptoms might emerge abruptly (called relapses or exacerbations) and then dissipate (remission).
    • Many people recover completely or have a lingering loss of mental or physical function. 
  3. Primary-progressive MS:
    • The development of neurological dysfunction and/or impairment is apparent from the outset of MS, with no discernible relapses or remissions. 
    • Temporary, small improvements are possible but are uncommon.
    • It is characterized by a continuous decline in neurologic functioning with no relapses or remissions.
    • This type of MS affects men and women equally, and the beginning age is about 10 years.
  4. Secondary-progressive MS:
    • It becomes continuously progressing, with more frequent relapses and smaller remissions.
    • Without recuperation between assaults, physical and mental function declines.
    • Over time, doctors will monitor whether a person's categorization changes and may characterize the person's MS state:
    • Active: Relapses in neurological symptoms or new or growing lesions evident on magnetic resonance imaging
    • Inactive/Stable: No obvious relapse or progression
    • Worsening: As a result of relapses or progression, there is an increase in neurological dysfunction or impairment
  5. Progressive-relapsing MS (PRMS):
    • PRMS is the least prevalent kind of MS, accounting for about five percent of all patients with MS. 
    • People with PRMS have consistent disease progression and declining neurological function.
  6. Fulminant MS:
    • It is a rare yet extremely severe and rapidly progressive type of MS.

What is multiple sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the body's nervous system. The condition interferes with the neuronal insulation (myelin sheath) causing electrical activities in the brain to jump from one neuron to another (something akin to a short fuse in electrical wires). Its consequences might range from insignificant to disastrous.

MS is thought to be an autoimmune condition with genetic and environmental triggers.

13 symptoms of MS

Symptoms vary depending on which nerve(s) is or are not affected. One individual may experience eye symptoms, whereas another might experience leg function issues.

  • A monofocal episode occurs when a person only has one symptom.
  • Others may experience a multifocal episode or a mix of many or more symptoms.

Thirteen common onset symptoms of MS might include:

  1. Numbness or weakness in the legs, limbs, or trunk, maybe on only one side of the body
  2. Shock-like symptoms, especially when moving the neck forward
  3. Tremors
  4. Tingling or soreness in different regions of the body
  5. Failure in coordination
  6. Unsteady walk
  7. Partial or total vision loss, generally in one eye at a time
  8. Pain with movement of the eye
  9. Double vision or hazy eyesight for an extended period
  10. Slurred speech
  11. Tiredness 
  12. Dizziness
  13. Sexual, bowel, and bladder problems


What kind of disease is multiple sclerosis? See Answer

Causes of and risk factors for MS

The immunological response in MS destroys the myelin sheath, which insulates nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). The cause of this autoimmune reaction is uncertain. MS causes the myelin sheath to scar (sclerosis), delaying or blocking impulses from the brain and causing the condition's symptoms.

  • Age: Between the ages of 20 and 40 years, symptoms commonly develop for the first time. Diagnosis before the age of 15 years is uncommon, and the illness seldom shows for the first time beyond the age of 50 years.
  • Gender and ethnicity: Women and people of European descent are more susceptible.

Factors that may increase the risk of MS include:

Diagnosis of MS

MS may be difficult to identify in the early stages due to the wide range of symptoms. The sequence of an attack, remission, and another attack implies MS. The nature and location of symptoms in the body are crucial considerations. If MS is suspected, a neurologist (a doctor who specializes in the neurological system) should be consulted.

Diagnosis of MS may involve:

  • Blood tests
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Computed tomography scan
  • Lumbar puncture (to check the levels of immune cells and proteins in the cerebrospinal fluid [fluid surrounding the spinal cord and brain])
  • Tests to measure electrical conduction through the nerves of the central nervous system

What are the treatment options for multiple sclerosis?

Although multiple sclerosis (MS) cannot be cured, it may be controlled. With today's therapies, it is feasible to:

  • Limit, if not completely eliminate, new central nervous system damage.
  • Treat acute attacks and offer faster relief.
  • Avoid relapses.
  • Stop, regulate, and avoid symptoms.
  • Assist with recovery from immune assaults.

Medications of MS

  • Intravenous steroids: They are the only drugs that help treat acute flare-ups and debilitating pain that comes with MS.

Disease-modifying treatments (DMTs)

  • DMTs are intended to prevent relapses and delay the progression of impairment.

Monoclonal antibody treatments

  • They are either given through injections or through infusions.

Treatment of acute relapses

The primary purpose of acute relapse therapy is to encourage faster recovery after a fresh episode. Relapse treatments may involve:

Symptomatic treatments

The purpose of symptomatic therapies for MS is to minimize the symptoms. Treatments include:

Exercise and lifestyle modifications for MS

  • Exercise programs can preserve muscular flexibility, minimize muscle stiffness, and aid in the recovery after assaults. 
  • Mobility and everyday activity can reduce the effect of symptoms.
  • Maintaining healthy body weight and eating a balanced nutritional diet enhance general well-being. 
  • Balancing enough rest with regular activity and controlling stress are equally vital for those with MS.
  • Counseling and support from family and friends can assist with the despair, anxiety, and lifestyle restrictions that come with having MS. 

MS may be a difficult illness to live with, but there is aid and support available. Over the last 20 years, new medicines have significantly improved the quality of life for people with MS. 

MS is seldom deadly; however, severe MS can cause problems such as chest or bladder infections or difficulty swallowing. People with MS have a life expectancy that is 5 to 10 years lower than the general population, and this gap appears to be closing due to clinical trials.

Medically Reviewed on 5/25/2022
Image Source: iStock Image

What Are the Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis? https://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/multiple-sclerosis-understanding-the-differences-in-ms

Types of MS: https://www.msif.org/about-ms/types-of-ms/

Types of Multiple Sclerosis: https://my-ms.org/ms_types.htm