Nearly 150 years after French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot described a condition he called “la sclérose en plaques disséminées,” scientists have characterized different forms of multiple sclerosis. The types differ in the pattern of symptoms a patient experiences, with some patterns being far more common than others. Here are the main forms of this neurological disorder:
In about 85 percent of patients, the disease follows a relapsing-remitting pattern in which symptoms worsen, or flare up, followed by a remission in which they remain stable, fade or disappear. During flare-ups, symptoms can range from mild to severe and in rare cases can even cause paralysis and death.
About half of people who have the relapsing-remitting variety will eventually acquire secondary progressive MS, in which symptoms slowly worsen between relapses.
About 10 percent of patients have primary progressive MS, in which symptoms steadily worsen from the outset in the absence of attacks.
Less than 5 percent of the time, a patient is afflicted with progressive relapsing MS, in which the symptoms initially progress steadily but years later are punctuated by intermittent relapses.