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Managing Relapses

Managing Relapses

Relapses are unpredictable and often unexpected, meaning it can be difficult to manage your Multiple Sclerosis at times. There are certain steps you can take and treatments which can help you to manage your relapses and to minimise the effect they have on your life.

First steps

If you think you are having a relapse, the first thing you should do is contact your doctor. You should let your doctor know what your symptoms are and how they are currently affecting you. It is possible that your symptoms could be caused by something else, such as an infection, so it is important to contact your doctor so all possible causes can be investigated and treated where possible. The sooner you contact your doctor, the sooner they can help you to manage your relapse and to look into possible treatments.

Relapse treatment

There are some possible treatment options to help with your relapse. Some people decide not to have any treatment for a relapse, however it is important that you discuss this with your healthcare team so you can make an informed decision.


If your relapse is causing distressing symptoms or limiting your day to day life, you should be offered a course of steroids, specifically methylprednisolone. Steroids can help to reduce inflamation, and potentially shorten the length of the relapse and help to speed up recovery. It is important to note however that steroids will not stop the symptoms of your relapse.

You may be offered a course of oral steroids, which in most cases can be taken at home. If you require intravenous methylprednisolone (through a drip), you may be admitted to hospital either as a day case or an inpatient. It may be possible to have the intraveinous methylprednisolone administered at your GP surgery or even at  home, depending on the procedures in your area. You can find out more information about this from your MS healthcare professional.

There are some possible side affects associated with methylprednisolone, and whilst they are usually short lived, these must be weighed up against the benefits a course of steroids will provide. Side effects can include:

  • upset stomach and nausea
  • mood alteration
  • heart palpitations 
  • altered sleep pattern 
  • metallic taste in the mouth
  • increased appetite and weight gain 
  • ankle swelling
  • flushing/ reddening of the face
  • acne 


The rehabilitation process can involve multiple approaches to manage your MS and the symptoms of your relapse. Depending on your symptoms, this may include physiotherapy, dietry advice and occupational therepy. You also have access to support for care at home and employment services to help manage your working life. For some people rehabilitation helps with relapse recovery whether you had steroid treatment or not.

 Primary Progressive (PPMS)