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
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.
- 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.
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.
- Speech or swallowing difficulty
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
- Incontinence, constipation
- Sexual dysfunction
- Cognitive changes
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.
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.