What Is a Relapsing-Remitting Disorder?

Several Autoimmune Diseases are Relapsing-Remitting Disorders

Man sitting on bed with backache and headache
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A relapsing-remitting disorder means the symptoms are at times worse (relapse) and other times are improved or gone (remitting). During a chronic pain relapse, pain would be present partially or completely. During a remission, however, pain would subside and require little, if any, treatment.

Relapsing and remitting conditions may follow certain patterns, or they may stop and start with seemingly no rhyme or reason.

Some remissions are exacerbated by additional injuries or other factors.

Also Known As: Relapsing and remitting.

Because disease symptoms come and go in relapsing-remitting disorders, sufferers can often be lulled into a false belief that they are cured of their illness, when, in fact, they are only in remission. 

3 Types of Relapsing-Remitting Diseases

Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS). Some types of multiple sclerosis are considered relapsing-remitting disease, because it often has both active phases and inactive phases. Commonly known as Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS), this autoimmune disease often has worsening inflammation attacks that impact neurologic function. The relapses are often followed by remission periods, during which time symptoms improve. Common symptoms of RRMS are vision problems, bowel and bladder problems, fatigue, numbness, stiffness, and problems with memory or information processing.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is another autoimmune disease that often is classified as a relapsing-remitting disorder. This disease, which causes the immune system to attack parts of the body, affects tissue in the joints. These attacks cause episodes of inflammation that can result in stiffness and severe pain, and can cause long-term and progressive damage of the joints.

Inflammation symptoms of RA can include fever, sweats, weight loss and fatigue. There are various classes of medications that can put the disease into remission for extended periods of time, depending on the severity of the disease.

Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease, also often follows a remitting and relapsing course. The disease is  more common in women than men and can strike at any age. Races most affected by this disease are African Americans and Asians. Episodic symptoms of SLE include severe fatigue, joint pain, swelling, mouth sores, hair loss, fever, general discomfort, sensitivity to sunlight, skin rash and swollen lymph nodes. Some people with SLE also develop arthritis, and the joints of the fingers, hands, wrists, and knees are often affected. Other SLE symptoms depend on the part of the body SLE attacks, i.e. heart, lung, skin, kidney, etc... While there is no cure for SLE, the goal is to control the symptoms that can come in a remitting and relapsing pattern.


National Multiple Sclerosis Society, nationalmssociety.org,Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS)

MMS, mims.co.uk, Rheumatoid Arthritis

U.S. National Library of Medicine, nlm.nih.gov, Systemic lupus erythematosus

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