Why does my MS sometimes get worse?

A relapse of your MS, also known as an exacerbation or a flare-up, occurs because there is new damage to the spinal cord or brain, which interrupts the signals from the nerves.1 Relapses can vary in how long they last, how often they occur, how severe they are, and what MS attack symptoms you experience.1,2 New symptoms that last for more than 24 hours are considered to be a relapse.1

How long will MS attack symptoms last?

A relapse will often go away, meaning the symptoms improve, without any specific treatment. However your doctor can help you to manage any symptoms during a relapse, or that do not go away.1 Rehabilitation can help you get back on track after a relapse.1

Signs of a relapse

Your doctor can assess you to see if you are having a relapse or experiencing MS attack symptoms. This may involve some examinations and possibly an MRI scan. Some signs of a relapse include:2

  • Weakness in your muscles
  • Blurred vision
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
  • Losing your balance or feeling uncoordinated
  • Having bowel or bladder problems.

Staying well

Taking your medication exactly as your doctor has prescribed and not missing any doses is important, as is eating well, getting a good night's sleep and reducing stress as much as possible.1

Use this symptom checker to assess your symptoms

Learn more

Listen to Jemma talk about the effect stress has on her MS symptoms and the strategies she uses to help.


  • National MS Society. Managing relapses. https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Treating-MS/Managing Relapses (date of last update not specified).
  • Kamel FO. J Microsc Ultrastruct 2019;7(3):103-108.