This article provides an overview of the clinical and pathologic features of multiple sclerosis (MS) relapses and reviews evidence-based approaches to their treatment.
Despite the increasing number and potency of MS treatments, relapses remain one of the more unpredictable and disconcerting disease aspects for many patients with MS, making their accurate recognition and treatment an essential component of good clinical care. The expanding range of relapse treatments now includes oral corticosteroids, comparable in efficacy to IV methylprednisolone at a fraction of the cost. While this development improves access to prompt treatment, it also underscores the importance of recognizing mimics of MS relapses to reduce corticosteroid overuse and its attendant risks.
Like MS itself, MS relapse remains primarily a clinical diagnosis. The treatment options for MS relapse include corticosteroids, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), plasma exchange, and rehabilitation, used singly or sequentially, with the goal of limiting the duration and impact of associated disability. Even when treated promptly and effectively, clinical or subclinical sequelae of MS relapses frequently remain.