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Learning about multiple sclerosis (MS)

By Lauren Lawler, PharmD, CSP
Manager of Specialty Clinical Programs, Patient Services
Optum Specialty Pharmacy

October 20, 2023 | 2-minute read


What are the different types of MS?

There are types of MS1:

  • Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS) – This is the first time that inflammation causes damage to the protective covering of nerve fibers. If this damage occurs again, it could become MS.
  • Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) – This is the most common type of MS. Symptoms like weakness, poor balance and others get worse for a period, then partly or totally improve. Ups and downs continue over time with no clear worsening of disease.
  • Primary-progressive MS (PPMS) – MS symptoms steadily progress. There are no distinct relapses or remissions.
  • Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) – MS symptoms progress with or without periods of improvement.
  • Progressive relapsing MS (PRMS) – Symptoms steadily worsen from the beginning. Relapses sometimes happen.

What does having a relapse mean?

An MS relapse is an incident of new symptoms or a worsening of old symptoms. A relapse is also known as exacerbation, an attack or a flare-up.2

What is remission?

A person is in MS remission when symptoms improve back to where they were before a relapse.3

Where can I find help with understanding MS medical terms?

Learning about a new diagnosis can be like learning a new language. Here’s a helpful glossary of MS-related terms.

Is MS really a “white person’s disease”?

No. For a long time, it was believed that MS mainly affected white people. But over the last decade, research has shown that MS is found in people with many different ethnic backgrounds.4

Recent data support that Black women are at the highest risk of MS (compared to white, Hispanic, and Asian women).5

Where can I find more information on multiple sclerosis?

Be sure to use trustworthy sources when looking up information about MS. Here are a few:

What should I expect after being diagnosed with MS?

Online communities and support groups can help you learn from others’ experiences:


  1. Lublin FD, Reingold SC, Cohen JA, et al. Neurology. Defining the clinical course of multiple sclerosis: the 2013 revisions. 2014;83(3):278-286.
  2. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Managing Relapses. Accessed March 2, 2023.
  3. Ibid.
  4. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Who gets multiple sclerosis? Epidemiology of MS. Accessed Feb. 3, 2023.
  5. Langer-Gould A, Brara SM, Beaber BE et al. Neurology. Incidence of multiple sclerosis in multiple racial and ethnic groups. 2013;80(19):1734-1739.