The symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis in a given person may vary, affecting different parts of the body at different times. The most common symptoms of MS are:
- Disturbances in vision
- Weaknesses or deteriorating muscle strength
- Altered sensations
- Memory Loss
- Bladder & Bowel Problems
In addition, some symptoms may occur often, while others may rarely be present. Some of the most common symptoms of MS are described below:
Disturbances in vision
Inflammation of the optic nerve (the nerve from the eye) is called optic neuritis. If this nerve becomes inflamed, you may experience partial blindness, dim or blurred vision or the loss of central vision in one or both eyes. You may also feel pain behind the eye, which increases when you move your eye. Sometimes, eye movements can also be affected if MS affects the brain stem. The most common symptom in this case is double vision and/or problems with balance and coordination. These symptoms usually improve gradually, but can return during periods of stress, elevated body temperature or fatigue (although this does not necessarily mean that your MS is active again). It is important to note that the majority of people who develop MS-related optic neuritis may actually recover very well.
Weakness or deteriorating muscle strength
Demyelination of the nerves that control the muscles can lead to muscle weakness, resulting in anything from reduced dexterity (e. g. the fingers may no longer work as well as they used to) to paralysis. Muscle weakness can occur during relapses, as well as in people who have progressive forms of MS. Gradual loss of strength occurs more frequently in the legs than in the arms, and is usually more marked on one side of the body. When this symptom strikes, it may be necessary to use a walking stick, walking frame or a wheelchair to improve mobility.
MS can affect one’s sense of touch. Person may feel numbness, tingling or ‘pins and needles’. One may also experience a burning sensation, a prickly feeling or over-sensitive areas on the skin. Sensory symptoms can occur in people who have relapsing remitting MS, as well as in those with progressive forms of the disease, and can affect any part(s) of the body (i. e. from a small patch of skin to a whole limb or an even larger part of the body).
Some people with MS will occasionally experience a degree of pain. Pain that occurs as a direct result of the damage to the central nervous system is often called neurogenic or neuropathic pain. An example of this is when MS affects a particular nerve to the face, called the trigeminal nerve; when this happens, a person can experience bursts of pain in part of his or her face (trigeminal neuralgia). It’s important to note that MS is not the only cause of trigeminal neuralgia. Muscular pain can reflect abnormal stress on joints, ligaments or muscles and is often caused by poor posture and walking patterns or prolonged sitting. Lower back pain is the most common type of muscular pain in people with MS.
Problems with balance and body coordination
The cerebellum is the part of the brain that co-ordinates movement and controls balance. If MS affects nerves in the cerebellum, you may be having difficulty maintaining your balance or problems coordinating movements and actions. There may be difficulty in grasping small objects; attempts to do so may often be accompanied by hand tremors or trembling. These problems can occur with relapsing remitting MS, as well as progressive forms of the disease.
Muscle stiffness or spasms
Muscle stiffness or spasms (spasticity) occurs when the muscles tighten and become rigid. In people with MS, stiffness and spasms may affect both the leg and arm muscles, but is often more pronounced in the legs and is usually associated with weakness. Muscle spasms, may result in reduced mobility and dexterity, and difficulty in finding a comfortable position.
Fatigue is a common symptom in MS. It may be a significant aspect of disability in MS and may be persistent, preventing you from accomplishing even light tasks. Fatigue in MS can be due to the poor conduction of impulses through the nerves, but may also develop as part of a psychological component of MS in which the patient may feel listless, or depressed. While fatigue can be debilitating, it’s important to remember that everyone, even people without MS, experience fatigue from time to time.
Bladder and bowel problems
Many people with MS experience bladder problems because their bladder and its associated muscles are no longer functioning properly. In particular, they may experience a strong and sometimes painful urge to urinate immediately after the first sensation of a full bladder. This condition is called “urinary urgency” and it may cause incontinence. People with MS may also have trouble completely emptying their bladder, a condition called “urinary retention”. Others may have a combination of these conditions. Constipation can occur when people with MS become less active and/or because their bowels no longer work properly.
Altered *** function
MS may lead to physical problems that affect your sex life. In women, MS can cause a loss of sensitivity in the *** organs, pain during intercourse and vaginal dryness. Men may have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Both men and women may have difficulty reaching orgasm. Fatigue may lead to a lack of interest in sex, while muscle stiffness, muscle weakness or muscle spasms may make sex difficult.
MS can affect various aspects of mental function, such as memory, planning ability, foresight and judgment. Short-term memory may be impaired, especially in those who have had the condition for many years. Attention and concentration problems can also arise, making it difficult to complete more than one task at a time. Many people with MS also report that they have difficulty finding the right words when communicating. It is important to note that many memory loss symptoms are more commonly due to mood disorders (e. g.depression), and may not necessarily be due to permanent nerve damage.
Mood disorders are relatively common in people with MS. They may be due to nerve damage caused by the illness. However, it is also common for people with MS to experience anxiety, anger or depression, either as a reaction to the diagnosis or simply in response to the challenges of living with the disease. The main symptoms of depression are feelings of sorrow, distress, gloominess, despair or irritability and sleep disturbance. Most people experience sadness at certain times; however, it’s important that you consult your doctor if you experience symptoms of possible depression, especially if they are prolonged or severe.
About MS & What causes Multiple Sclerosis
MS symptoms result when an immune-system attack affects myelin, the protective insulation surrounding nerve fibers of the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). Myelin is destroyed and replaced by scars of hardened “sclerotic” tissue. Some underlying nerve fibers are permanently severed. The damage appears in multiple places within the central nervous system. Myelin is often compared to insulating material around an electrical wire; loss of myelin interferes with the transmission of nerve signals.