Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disorder affecting movement,sensations, bodily functions and more. It is caused by destruction of the myelin insulation covering nerve fibres (neurons) in the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Symptoms of MS occur when the brain and spinal cord nerves no longer communicate properly with other parts of the body. MS causes a wide variety of symptoms and can affect vision, balance, strength, sensation, coordination, and bodily functions.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

MS symptoms are variable and unpredictable. No two people have exactly the same symptoms, and each person’s symptoms can change or fluctuate over time. One person might experience only one or two of the possible symptoms while another person experiences many more.
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Because the autoimmune attack may occur in many areas of the central nervous system the location and severity of each attack can be different.  Due to this characteristic of the disease, the symptoms that occur from an exacerbation (attack) can appear almost anywhere in the body.

Visible and Invisible Symptoms

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis can manifest themselves in many ways but can generally be categorised into visible and invisible symptoms.

Visible symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Walking difficulties such as balance, gait or weakness resulting in need of devices for mobility assistance.
  • Tremors
  • Spasticity in muscles
  • Foot drop
  • Bowel or bladder dysfunction

Invisible symptoms include but are not limited to:

  • Cognitive dysfunction or memory loss
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Pain, itching, pins and needles feelings.
  • Vertigo
  • Numbness

When do symptoms appear?

Early symptoms often include but are not limited to:

  • Muscle weakness, causing difficulty walking
  • Loss of coordination or balance
  • Numbness, “pins and needles,” or other abnormal sensations
  • Visual disturbances, including blurred or double vision.
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
Later symptoms may include but are not limited to:
  • Paralysis
  • Pain
  • Vertigo
  • Speech or swallowing difficulty
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control
  • Incontinence, constipation
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Cognitive changes
Weakness in one or both legs is common, and may be the first symptom noticed by a person with MS. Muscle spasticity, or excessive tightness, is also common and may be more disabling than weakness.
Double vision or eye tremor (nystagmus) may result from involvement of the nerve pathways controlling movement of the eye muscles. Visual disturbances result from involvement of the optic nerves (optic neuritis) and may include development of blind spots in one or both eyes, changes in color vision, or blindness. Optic neuritis usually involves only one eye at a time and is often associated with movement of the affected eye.
MS Symptoms Graph
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More than half of all people affected by MS have pain during the course of their disease, and many experience chronic pain, including pain from spasticity. Acute pain occurs in about 10% of cases. This pain may be a sharp, stabbing pain especially in the face, neck, or down the back. Facial numbness and weakness are also common.

Cognitive changes, including memory disturbances, depression, and personality changes, are found in people affected by MS, though it is not entirely clear whether these changes are due primarily to the disease or to the psychological reaction to it. Depression may be severe enough to require treatment in up to 25% of those with MS.A smaller number of people experience disease-related euphoria, or abnormally elevated mood, usually after a long disease duration and in combination with other psychological changes.
Symptoms of MS may be worsened by heat or increased body temperature, including fever, intense physical activity, or exposure to sun, hot baths, or showers which is known as Uthoff’s Sign or a pseudo-exacerbation.

Summary:

Multiple sclerosis symptoms can be wide and varied from individual to individual.  It has been said that “Everyone’s MS is different” due to the wide and varied impacts of the disease both physically, emotionally, mentally and in their everyday lives.

We encourage you to explore symptoms of multiple sclerosis AFTER reading the disease information.  There are varieties of mechanisms to cope with MS symptoms from medications to a variety of forms of therapy.

 

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