The MS Alphabet: Amygdala, ARR, Assistive and More

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by Tamara Sellman |

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When it comes to multiple sclerosis, mastering your own understanding of the disease means you need to mind your Ps, Qs, dot your Is, cross your Ts, and recite your ABCs. There is so much to know about this complex disease. But the more you know as a patient (or caregiver,) the more informed you will be in making critical healthcare decisions.

This week, I offer five more terms for the letter “A” that you might encounter and wish to master as an MS patient. (You can read about five terms previously covered in this column.)

The Symptoms of MS

Attack; Acute Attack

Also known as a relapse, flare-up, or episode. An attack occurs when existing symptoms worsen or new symptoms develop.

Attacks typically strike those who have relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) or progress-relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS), but sometimes occur in secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS).

Generally speaking, to qualify as an attack, such an episode would need to endure for at least 24-48 hours. A period of at least 30 days of symptom-free living also must separate any new attack from a previous one. The attack should either highlight the return of symptoms or introduce the presence of new symptoms.

Also, symptoms should not originate from any other co-existing condition during that time. This can include explanations like overheating from hot weather or exertion, secondary infections, or mood disorders that have flared.

Correctly identifying an attack helps a doctor to review a patient’s current therapy so they can make adjustments. Once an attack is formally identified, it can be indicated on the patient’s record for the purposes of determining other actions. These can include ordering MRIs to examine any evidence of disease progression, or adding or adjusting the patient’s medications to help ease their old, or new, symptoms.

The Acronyms of MS


Annualized Relapse Rate (ARR) measures an MS patient’s average number of attacks per year. This particular outcome measure is used to help detect and quantify levels of sustained disability. Relapse rates that are detected early in the course of the disease are considered useful for predicting future disability.

Common terms of MS


This refers to tools, devices, or products designed, manufactured, or adapted to help a person with MS perform activities of daily living. For instance, a shower chair assists the person with MS by preventing falls while bathing. Walkers, wheelchairs, scooters, and canes describe other common assistive devices used by people living with MS.

The Biology of MS


The amygdala is an organ of the brain, surrounded by white matter, which belongs to the limbic system. The limbic system regulates emotional activity based on sensory stimulus and memory.

In persons with MS, lesions and disease activity may disrupt communications between the left section of the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Problems with processing emotion (especially negative emotion) can result.

The Drugs of MS


This generic tricyclic antidepressant medication primarily treats depression, but people with MS find it useful for relieving nerve pain. This drug also is commonly used to treat fibromyalgia and other pain-related disorders.

(Stay tuned for more columns about the MS alphabet.)


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


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