As someone who has lived with MS for over 25 years, I feel qualified to discuss the possible Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms and Signs. Having studied all I can find on the subject of multiple sclerosis has given me a far greater understanding of this disease than I had possessed at the outset.
I like to think that I am a well-educated individual but, I am not a doctor. So, any opinions offered here are those of a layman. I am a well-informed layman and my occasional encounters with the medical profession cam confirm this.
On a number of occasions, I have been asked if I am a doctor, by other doctors.
However, my well-informed position has not always been evident. Indeed, when I was first diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, I dismissed it as a minor annoyance. I knew that MS could affect my mobility and I knew it was a neurological condition.
Moreover, I had accepted these facts without assessing the possible implications. I knew that neurological indicated that it affected my nervous system. This was something I could deal with.
I remember thinking “I may lose my mobility but, it won’t affect my brain.” Oh! How wrong I had been. I am deeply embarrassed and feel very stupid when I recall my ignorance!
MS Symptoms and Signs
The brain is the centre of the nervous system and Multiple Sclerosis affects the brain.
This is, fundamentally, why Multiple Sclerosis symptoms and signs can be so varied. Add to this the fact that we are all different (in fact, we are all unique) and our bodies will respond to and fight MS in different ways.
It is easy to regard the brain as being a useful organ of our bodies. When in reality it is our brain that makes us who we are. You are your brain. If you believe that humans have a soul, then it must reside in the brain. The way your brain works determines your character, the person you are and how you interact with others.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the brain and spinal cord that can cause serious disability. People who are diagnosed with MS are generally aged in their 20s or 30s and can look forward to a slightly reduced life expectancy. The disease is more common in women than in men.
You will find many things about multiple sclerosis that are contrary to the general understanding of the condition.
For example, MS can strike at any age and me and my best MS friend are both men. My mother was diagnosed with MS in her thirties and is now in her mid-eighties and still walking every day.
The MS Diagnosis
There is no single test to diagnose MS. Doctors and other nedical professionals diagnose the disease by a patient’s history, physical examination, and tests such as MRI, lumbar puncture, and evoked potential testing (speed of nerve impulses). You may have other tests to rule potential imposters.
Making a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is far too serious a proposition to be made by a patient’s blog such as this so, I will refer to the specialist neurologists who are the only people qualified to make a diagnosis of MS.
There are a number of other indicators or signs that your specialist may look for.
However, it must be noted that the existence of one or all of the above indicators is insufficient to make a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms of MS
Due to the nature of Multiple Sclerosis (MS), it is possible that symptoms can affect any part of the body, and can vary in intensity or duration.
The time when multiple sclerosis symptoms appear or worsen is known as a relapse or a flare. Periods, when the disease is quiet or dormant, are known as remission.
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- Fatigue is unrelenting tiredness or very limited energy levels.
- Impaired Vision can be a blurred vision in one or both eyes or double-vision or diplopia.
- Loss of sensation with tingling or numbness in the face or limb extremities.
- Muscle Atrophy is characterised by spasms, stiffness and weakness.
- Mobility Issues where the muscle weakness and balance problems cause difficulty with walking.
- Pain can be neuropathic pain or musculoskeletal pain.
- Cognitive problems, difficulty with thinking clearly, inability to solve problems or plan tasks
- Depression and anxiety come from changes in the emotional responses
- Sexual problems with erectile dysfunction in men and anorgasmia in women
- Bladder problems with urinary urgency, urinary hesitancy causing difficulty with your waterworks
- Bowel problems with constipation causing difficulties passing stool
- Speech and Swallowing with muscle problems of the throat and oesophagus
It is unlikely that you will experience all of these multiple sclerosis symptoms, especially in the early days of your MS.
MS Symptoms Roundup
As an MS patient myself, I have experienced ALL of the above symptoms during my 25+ years of living with MS.
The only symptom I would play down is depression and anxiety. I am fortunate, the condition doesn’t really cause me any real issues in the mental health department except, every year as winter approaches, I get Seasonal Affective \disorder. Otherwise, I am a very laid-back old geezer still trying to hold on to flower power.
Is the kind of overwhelming exhaustion that does not disappear after a good night’s sleep. Everybody with MS is only too familiar with fatigue. It is, by far, the most common MS symptom.
It may come as a surprise to learn that the optic nerve(s) is considered to be an integral part of the Central nervous System (CNS) Inflammation of the optic nerve caused optic neuritis which will cause a loss of vision in one or both eyes.
I was prescribed prednisolone (a steroid) to try and alleviate my optic neuritis.
You may also suffer from colour-blindness or physical pain from the eyeballs.
Particularly in the early days of MS, you may have tingling or numbness of the face, hands, forearms or feet. This can be especially annoying if you perceive the itching and tingling in your scalp. Often described as having spiders in your hair.
Furthermore, you can have odd visual sensations where you can see spectre-like shapes when you are trying to sleep.
Muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness
When the muscles tighten painfully, they are said to spasm. If the muscles become stiff and difficult to move they are spastic. In general MS muscles will be weak.
A variation of the muscle spasm is the myoclonic jerk, where the legs twitch violently, usually when trying to sleep.
A combination of muscle weakness and poor balance make walking difficult. People with advance Primary Progressive MS (PPMS) may be completely immobile or wheelchair-bound.
Many MSers will experience pain of one sort or another. In general, this pain can take one of two forms:
Is the type of pain caused by the MS disease itself? This may manifest as:
- Stabbing pains in the cheeks and face
- Aches or burning sensations in the legs or arms
- Muscle spasms
While it is quite rare in MS patients, an extreme form of neuropathic pain is trigeminal neuralgia. This has been described as the most intense pain known to medical science. If you should experience trigeminal neuralgia it will undoubtedly be among your worst multiple sclerosis symptoms
Back, neck or joint pain may be an indirect result of multiple sclerosis when the patient has become sedentary. People who have difficulty in being mobile will put added pressure on their lower back and hips.
This is where the brain damage of MS becomes all too apparent. It presents as difficulty with thinking, inability to learn and emotional chaos. These are all forms of cognitive dysfunction.
This can include:
- problems learning and remembering new things – long-term memory is usually unaffected
- slowness in processing lots of information or multitasking
- a shortened attention span
- getting stuck on words
- problems with understanding and processing visual information, such as reading a map
- difficulty with planning and problem solving – people often report that they know what they want to do, but can’t grasp how to do it
- problems with reasoning, such as mathematical laws or solving puzzles
Ironically, the best treatment for cognitive dysfunction is a mental exercise routine. I have found that learning to speak a new language helps a lot with my mental health, even if it fails to improve my linguistic ability.
This is compounded by the speech problems of MS. If I struggle to get my tongue around English phrases, what chance do I have with the Spanish vocabulary?
Problems with the bladder are very common in MS. You may come across the phrase frequent micturition which just means having the urge to urinate often.
- The need to urinate frequently
- A sudden, urgent need to urinate with the inevitable accidents (urge incontinence)
- Inability to empty your bladder fully
- Waking frequently at night to vissit the lavatory
- Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
To continue the toilet theme, we turn to constipation which is, unfortunately, a very common complaint from MS patients.
It can often take a lot of effort and energy to pass stool, which has an impact on MS fatigue. This can occasionally be painful which is another odd neuropathic pain.
It could also be a muscle control or nerve issue. The bladder wall is comprised of smooth muscle and the digestive and excretion functions come under the control of the autonomic nervous system.
Speech and Swallowing Difficulties
Multiple Sclerosis can cause difficulties with swallowing and can lead to real choking dangers. This is a condition known as Dysphagia.
Furthermore, I have the first-hand experience, MS can impair the ability to speak clearly. Slurred speech is just one of the symptoms that adds to the idea that MS makes you drunk.
It slurs your speech it makes you stagger while walking and can make you feel drunk, all while being completely tee-total.