The course of MS is unpredictable. People can be minimally affected by the disease, while some may experience more frequent relapses leading to varying levels of disability. Individuals will experience a different combination of MS symptoms over time.

There are four main types of MS based on how the condition presents and may progress.

Relapsing-Remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS)

Approximately 85% of people are initially diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). People with RRMS usually experience clearly defined attacks, or relapses, which either present new symptoms, or increase the severity of existing symptoms. These attacks subside with either full, or partial, recovery. There is also usually no noticeable progression of the condition between attacks.

There are a number of disease modifying treatments for RRMS. Without treatment, after about 10 years, attacks can become less noticeable but the disability level may increase over time.

Primary-Progressive multiple sclerosis

This less common type of MS is characterised by a gradual, but steady progression of disability from the onset. In most cases, there are no obvious plateaus or remissions, however, some people will experience occasional plateaus, and minor temporary improvements.

Secondary-Progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS)

Secondary-Progressive MS (SPMS) can develop in a person diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS initially. This progressive form of MS seems to mark a turning point in the life of the person with the condition. Whilst it is less ‘inflammatory’ and involves fewer attacks, SPMS is characterised by gradual and irreversible progression.


In this relatively rare course of MS, people experience a steady worsening of the condition from the beginning, but with clear attacks and deteriorating neurological function along the way. They may, or may not, experience some recovery following attacks, but the disease will continue to progress without remissions.

References: MS Australia
Knowledge is Power Volume 1.
Read more at: MS Trust