13 Early Signs & Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Posted: August 20, 2015 at 5:51 pm

A Close Look at MS Symptoms

Multiple sclerosis(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, visionloss, and diminishedbrainfunction.

MS affects an estimated 2.3 million people worldwide. Womenare affected more than twice as often as men, according to the National MS Society. Family history is also a major risk factor.

MS is a progressive autoimmune disorder. That means the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body that are vital to everyday function. The protective covering of nerve cells are damaged, which leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal column.

The cause of MS largely remains a mystery, even though the disease was discovered in 1868. Researchers know the nerve damage is caused by inflammation, but the cause of the inflammation is still unknown.

The most common early signs of MS arevision problems, clinically called optic neuritis. Inflammation affects the optic nerve and disrupts central vision. This can lead toblurred visionin one or both eyes, double vision, or loss of contrast or vivid colors.

You may not notice the vision problems immediately, as degeneration of clear vision can be slow. Pain when you look up or to one side also can accompany vision loss.

MS affects nerves in the brain and spinal column (the bodys message center). This means it can send conflicting signals around the body. Sometimes, no signals are sent. This results in the most common symptom:numbness.

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

Chronic pain and involuntary muscle spasms are also common with MS. One study, according to the National MS Society, showed that half of people with MS had either clinically significant pain or chronic pain.

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

Unexplainedfatigueand weaknessaffect about 80 percent of people in the early stages of MS.

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.

Dizzinessand problems with coordination and balance can decrease the mobility of someone with MS. Your doctor may refer to these as problems with yourgait.People with MS often feel lightheaded, dizzy, or feel as if their surroundings are spinning (vertigo). This symptom often occurs when a person stands up.

Adysfunctional bladderis another symptom occurring in up to 80 percent of people with MS. This can include urinating frequently, strong urges to urinate, or inability to hold in urine.

Urinary-related symptoms are often manageable. Less often, people with MS experience constipation, diarrhea, or loss of bowel control.

Sexual arousalcan also be a problem for people with MS because it begins in the central nervous system where MS attacks.

About half of people with MS will develop some kind of issue with their cognitive function. This can include:

Depression and other emotional health problems are also common.

Major depressionis common among people with MS. The stresses of MS can also cause irritability, mood swings, and a condition calledpseudobulbar affect: 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.

Not everyone with MS will have the same symptoms. Different symptoms can manifest themselves during attacks. Along with the symptoms mentioned on the previous slides, MS can also cause:

MS often astounds doctors because of how much it can vary in both its severity and the ways that it affects people. Attacks can last a few weeks and then disappear. However, relapses can get progressively worse, more unpredictable, and come with different symptoms.

However, early detection may help prevent MS from progressing quickly.

MS isnt necessarily hereditary. However, you have a higher chance of developing the disease if you have a close relative with MS, according to theNational MS Society.

The general population only has a tenth of a percent chance of developing MS. But theNational MS Societyreports that number jumps to 2.5 to 5 percent if you have a sibling or parent with MS.

Heredity isnt the only factor in determining MS. An identical twin only has a 25 percent chance of developing MS if their twin has the disease. While genetics is certainly a risk factor, its not the only one.

A doctor most likely a neurologist will perform several tests to diagnose MS, including:

Doctors use these tests to look for damage to the central nervous system in two separate areas that occurred at least one month apart. These tests are also used to rule out other conditions.

MS is a challenging disorder, but researchers have discovered many treatments that can slow its progression.

The best defense against MS is seeing your doctor immediately after you experience the first warning signs. This is especially important if someone in your immediate family has the disorder, as its one of the key risk factors for MS.

Don't hesitate. It could make all the difference.

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13 Early Signs & Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

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