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Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)

Secondary Progressive MS (SPMS)

Secondary progressive MS is a secondary stage of Multiple Sclerosis which occurs after the relapsing remitting stage. Roughly 65% of those diagnosed with RRMS will at some stage develop secondary progressive MS around 15 years after their initial diagnosis, however this can vary.

In this type of MS, people tend to experience a progressive build up of symptoms which can lead to a disability. Symptoms will gradually worsen over time, and relapses are less common. Some people will still have relapses, but tend not to make a complete recovery.

Usually, a diagnosis of Secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis will come after a minimum of six months of clear progression of symptoms. SPMS differs from primary progressive MS, which is progressive from the onset of symptoms.

SPMS can lead to the build up of a disability, due to a combination of the gradual progression of the condition and incomplete recovery from relapses.

Managing secondary progressive MS

For those diagnosed with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis, there are some treatments which can help to manage symptoms and improve lifestyle. Physiotherapy and occupational therapy are useful to many people with the condition, as well as exercise and healthy diet. There are also some drug treatments available.


Steroids can be used for those with secondary progressive MS who are still experiencing relapses. Steroids can sometimes help to reduce the overall length of a relapse and to speed up recovery. Find out more about how to manage relapses.

Disease modifying drugs

The disease modifying drug beta interferon is available for those with secondary progressive MS who are still experiencing relapses, when these relapses are causing the condition to worsen. Beta interferon is thought to reduce inflammation which damages nerve fibres in Multiple Sclerosis. Glatiramer acetate, or Copaxone, can also be effective, and appears in some cases to prevent cells attacking the myelin. 

See here for more information about disease modifying drugs.


Mitoxantrone is a drug which suppresses the immune system. It is thought to be effective in treating secondary progressive MS in cases where relapses are still occurring. Unfortunately it seems to be much less effective for those no longer experiencing relapses.This treatments is known as 'off-label', meaning that it is sometimes used for treating MS, it isn't specifically licensed for MS treatment.

 Benign MS

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