Selma Blair says she's currently in remission from multiple sclerosis: What does that mean?

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Selma Blair has revealed she's currently in remission from MS. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
Selma Blair has revealed she's currently in remission from MS. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Selma Blair has revealed she's currently in remission from multiple sclerosis (MS) following a stem cell transplant last year.

On Monday, the 49-year-old actress gave an update on her health during a Television Critics Association panel.

"My prognosis is great. I’m in remission,” Blair said while promoting her upcoming documentary, "Introducing, Selma Blair." The intimate look at Blair's life with MS will debut in theatres on Oct. 15 and will be available for streaming on Oct. 21 through Discovery+.

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The "Legally Blonde" actress received a hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation, an intravenous transfusion of stem cells to help restore blood cell production in people who may have damaged immune systems or bone marrow.

"It took about a year after stem cell for the inflammation and lesions to really go down, so I was reluctant to talk about it because I felt this need to be more healed,” she said. “I don’t have any new lesions forming.”

Selma Blair has announced she's currently in remission from MS. (Image via Getty Images)
Selma Blair has announced she's currently in remission from MS. (Image via Getty Images)

What does it mean to be in remission from MS?

MS is a disease that causes the immune system to attack the body’s central nervous system (the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve), damaging the fatty substance that protects and surrounds nerve fibres called myelin. Damaged or destroyed nerve fibres cause messages from the central nervous system to be disrupted or stopped completely. Symptoms of MS include problems with muscle control, balance, vision and impaired speech.

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Flare ups affect people with relapsing-remitting MS, which means some people experience periods of exacerbations or flare ups in which symptoms will worsen, or new symptoms will appear.

These intense periods are marked by pain, pins-and-needles tingling, numbness, tiredness, weakness, blurred or impaired vision, followed by a period of full or partial recovery.

Remissions can last for weeks, months or years. A 2017 study revealed that high-dose immunosuppressive therapy followed by a transplant of a patient's own blood-forming stem cells can induce "sustained remission" in patients of up to five years.

Blair's life in remission

In addition to physical side symptoms, MS has a cognitive component that can compromise a person's ability to pay attention and spatial awareness. The cognitive impacts can greatly effect a person's mental health and can lead to depression and outbursts of anger.

"There’s still maintenance, treatment and glitches, and wonderful things,” Blair told reporters. “Cognitively, I’m very changed and that’s been the harder part."

“Selma was ready to tell this story in all of its honesty and rawness and truth,” the documentary's director, Rachel Fleit said of the star. “She had a few medical emergencies during filming. When she was like, ‘Yes, show it all,’ I was like, ‘This is extraordinary.’”

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Blair was diagnosed with MS in Oct. 2018 but told the panel that she had been experiencing symptoms unknowingly for years.

"I’ve been carrying around some sort of chronic illness, either building up or had for a long time, so it wasn’t a surprise to me,” she said. “Just the name was a surprise.”

Selma Blair is releasing a new documentary about her journey with MS. (Image via Getty Images)
Selma Blair is releasing a new documentary about her journey with MS. (Image via Getty Images)

Blair's mother, Molly Ann Cooke died in May of last year. Due to the pandemic, Blair was unable to return to her home state of Michigan to mourn with her family.

"I really do feel now, with this pandemic, we’ve all gotten a kind of diagnosis that’s incurable. It’s called living right now,” Blair said of life during the pandemic. “Everyone has really realized our mortality. It taught me a lot more patience and understanding.”

Despite her private pain, Blair said that she understands the opportunity she has to raise awareness for MS as a public figure.

"I never really liked life, I do now. Strange, huh?” she said. “I was so scared in life, so to suddenly start to find an identity and a safety in me, and figure out boundaries and time management and energy, I’m having the time of my life.”

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