- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Understanding Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive, immune-mediated disorder. That means the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body that aren’t harmful. The protective coverings of nerve cells are damaged, which leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal cord.

MS is a disease with unpredictable symptoms that can vary in intensity. While some people experience fatigue and numbness, severe cases of MS can cause paralysis, vision loss, and diminished brain function.

MS is a lifelong disease, but it can be managed and researchers are continually looking for more effective treatments.

Early signs and symptoms of MS

Common early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) include:

  • vision problems
  • tingling and numbness
  • pains and spasms
  • weakness or fatigue
  • balance problems or dizziness
  • bladder issues
  • sexual dysfunction
  • cognitive problems

For some people, the earliest signs of MS might include clinically isolated syndrome (CIS), neurologic symptoms that last at least 24 hours and can’t be associated with another cause. It includes what’s called demyelination which is damage to myelin, the protective coating that helps to protect nerve cells in the central nervous system.

Although CIS doesn’t necessarily lead to MS, it could be an early sign. Symptoms of a CIS episode could include:

Optic neuritis. This is damage to the myelin of your optic nerve which may cause vision issues and eye pain.
Lhermitte’s sign. This condition is caused by a demyelinating lesion on the spinal cord that causes a tingling or shock feeling going down the back and neck, especially when you bend your neck down.
Transverse myelitis. Transverse myelitis is when the spinal cord is involved and can cause muscle weakness, numbness, and other issues.
An MRI can sometimes be a useful tool in helping to determine if there’s only been one episode of CIS or multiple episodes, which may indicate MS.

Common MS symptoms

Primary symptoms of MS stem from the damage to the protective nerve covering, the myelin. Your doctors can help you manage these symptoms using medication, occupational therapy, and physical therapy.

Here are some of the more common symptoms of MS:

Vision problems

Visual problems are one of the most common symptoms of MS. Inflammation affects the optic nerve and disrupts vision. This can cause blurred vision or loss of vision. Sometimes the cranial nerves or the brainstem can be involved, causing eye movement problems or double vision. These are three common vision symptoms of MS:

optic neuritis — inflammation of the optic nerve
nystagmus — unstable movement of the eye, sometimes called “dancing eyes”
diplopia — double vision
You may not notice the vision problems immediately. With optic neuritis, pain when you look up or to one side also can accompany vision loss. There are a variety of ways to cope with MS-related vision changes.

Tingling and numbness

MS affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord (the body’s message center). The sensory nerves in the spinal cord can be affected by demyelination, causing diminished sensation when you touch something, which can affect your ability to walk or do things with your hands. You can also have paresthesias (sensations like numbness, tingling, or burning).

Tingling sensations and numbness are one of the most common warning signs of MS. Common sites of numbness include the face, arms, legs, and fingers.

Pain and spasms

Chronic pain and involuntary muscle spasmsare also common with MS. Pain can be a direct result of the demyelination or by the symptoms themselves causing secondary pain.

Types of MS pain could include neuropathic pain. This acute pain is caused by nerves miscommunicating signals to the brain. Examples include:

trigeminal neuralgia
Lhermitte’s sign
“MS hug”
paroxysmal spasms
MS can also cause chronic neuropathic pain, where the acute pain mentioned above can also be experienced on a more ongoing basis. This may include dysesthesias (painful sensations in the limbs) or pruritis, which causes itching, tingling, and similar sensations.

Muscle stiffness or spasms (spasticity) are also common. You might experience stiff muscles or joints as well as uncontrollable, painful jerking movements of the extremities. The legs are most often affected, but back pain is also common.

Type of spasticity associated with MS include flexor spasticity, where muscles become very tight so that they bend and are unable to be straightened, and extensor spasticity, where muscles have the opposite problem — they’re so tight that the arms or legs become straightened and can’t bend.

Slurred speech and trouble swallowing, particularly in later stages of the condition, can also occur due to motor issues.

Fatigue and weakness

Unexplained fatigue and weaknessaffect many people living with MS. Fatigue is often related to the number of lesions in the brain and to inflammation. Weakness can develop due to muscle atrophy (muscles shrinking from lack or use) or due to demyelination of the nerves.

Chronic fatigue occurs when nerves deteriorate in the spinal column. Usually, the fatigue appears suddenly and lasts for weeks before improving. The weakness is most noticeable in the legs at first.

People who have MS can have intermittent fatigue, recurrent fatigue, or constant chronic fatigue. There’s sometimes an increased chance of having the separate diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome for people who have MS.

Balance problems and dizziness

Dizziness and problems with coordination and balance can decrease the mobility of someone with MS. This can contribute to problems with your gait. People with MS often feel lightheaded, dizzy, or as if their surroundings are spinning (vertigo). This symptom often occurs when you stand up.

Bladder and bowel dysfunction

A dysfunctional bladder is another common symptom. This can include:

frequent urination
strong urges to urinate
inability to hold in urine
inability to urinate (bladder retention)
Urinary-related symptoms are often manageable. Less often, people with MS experience constipation, diarrhea, or loss of bowel control.

Sexual dysfunction
Sexual arousal and function can also be a problem for people with MS because it begins in the central nervous system — where MS attacks. It could stem from physical problems with fatigue, spasticity, or secondary emotional symptoms.

Cognitive problems

Many with MS will develop some kind of issue with their cognitivefunction. This can include:

memory problems
shortened attention span
trouble concentration
difficulty staying organized
Depression and other emotional health problems are also common.

Changes in emotional health

Major depression is common among people with MS. The stresses of MS can also cause irritability, mood swings, and, rarely, a condition called pseudobulbar affect. This involves bouts of uncontrollable crying and laughing.

Coping with MS symptoms, along with relationship or family issues, can make depression and other emotional disorders even more challenging. MS support groups can be helpful in coping with these changes.

- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Get in Touch


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

- Advertisement -spot_imgspot_img

Latest Posts