Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. It is an unpredictable and potentially disabling condition that can vary greatly from person to person. The exact cause of MS is not yet fully understood, but researchers believe that it may be a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
Recognizing the early warning signs of MS is essential for early diagnosis and treatment. Symptoms of MS can vary. However, we’ll explore 15 early warning signs and symptoms of MS to have on your radar. Given how the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can often be misdiagnosed, it’s helpful to research this information online before consulting a doctor.
Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of MS, affecting up to 80% of people with the condition. It is often described as a lack of energy or a feeling of exhaustion that is not relieved by rest.
Numbness and Tingling
Numbness and tingling are common early symptoms of MS, often felt in the arms, legs, face, or trunk. This can be accompanied by a burning or prickling sensation.
Muscle weakness can occur in any part of the body, and may affect coordination and balance. This can make simple tasks such as walking or standing difficult.
MS can affect vision in a variety of ways, including blurred vision, double vision, or a loss of vision in one eye. These symptoms can be temporary or permanent, and may come and go.
MS can affect the parts of the brain and spinal cord that control balance, making it difficult to walk or stand without assistance. This can increase the risk of falls and injuries.
MS can affect cognitive function, including memory, concentration, and problem-solving. This can impact daily activities such as work or school.
Bladder or Bowel Problems
MS can cause bladder and bowel dysfunction, including urinary urgency, incontinence, and constipation.
Depression and Anxiety
Depression and anxiety are common in people with MS, and may be related to the physical and emotional impact of the condition.
MS can cause pain in different parts of the body, such as the arms, legs, face, and back. This pain can be sharp, burning, or throbbing and may be constant or intermittent.
MS can affect speech and communication, causing slurred speech, difficulty finding words, or a change in tone of voice.
MS can cause difficulty with swallowing, which can lead to choking or aspiration pneumonia.
Heat can worsen MS symptoms, causing temporary or prolonged exacerbations. Exposure to heat can cause fatigue, weakness, or vision problems.
Tremors or shaking of the limbs can occur in people with MS. These tremors can be mild or severe, and may affect one or more limbs.
MS can cause itching or a sensation of crawling on the skin. This is caused by damage to the nerves that control sensation.
MS can cause sexual problems such as loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, or difficulty reaching orgasm. These problems can be caused by nerve damage or medication side effects.
Seek Medical Attention
If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. A neurologist can perform tests to help diagnose MS, including a neurological exam, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain and/or spinal cord, and lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to check for abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid.
While there is currently no cure for MS, there are a variety of treatments available that can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Treatment options may include medications to reduce inflammation, physical therapy to improve mobility and balance, and occupational therapy to assist with daily activities.