5 Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis You Should Watch Out For

Galway Daily

Multiple sclerosis, also called MS, is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, or the central nervous system. It attacks the myelin sheath, which is the lipid-rich layer that surrounds the nerves in your brain and spinal cord. Because the myelin serves as protection and insulation for the nerve fibers, any damage to it can disrupt the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, potentially disabling MS patients. Unfortunately, this damage may become permanent as the disease progresses.

It is not yet clear what exactly causes multiple sclerosis. Anyone can be affected by the disease, but women are two to three times more likely to develop it than men are. It is also often diagnosed in patients between the ages of 15 and 60 years old. A family history of MS or other autoimmune diseases may also increase your risk of getting it, as do being a smoker and having a history of mononucleosis.

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis can be difficult. The symptoms can come and go in the early stages of the disease. It is possible to experience one symptom, only to have no other ones for as long as months or even years. It is also easy to confuse MS symptoms with those of other illnesses. If you are concerned that you might be at risk of multiple sclerosis, here are the main symptoms to look out for.

1. Weakness and Fatigue

Weakness is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis, affecting around 80 percent of patients in the early stages. The unexplained muscle weakness usually starts in the legs and may cause numbness or a tingling sensation. This is usually accompanied by chronic fatigue, which may come on suddenly. The feeling of lassitude caused by MS can affect your day to day functions and activities. It may last for weeks before you feel an improvement.

2. Pain and Muscle Spasms

Those afflicted with multiple sclerosis also commonly experience spasticity. This refers to the stiffening or tightening of the muscles which causes involuntary muscle spasms. You may also feel persistent pain in your legs. Although this symptom most commonly occurs in the legs, your other limbs may be affected as well. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society estimates that around 55 percent of MS patients experience significant pain, with women more likely to have this symptom than men.

3. Vision Problems

Another early sign of multiple sclerosis is a problem with your vision. The disease can cause optic neuritis or inflammation of the optic nerve. This may lead to blurry vision, dim vision, loss of color in vision, or pain with eye movement. You may also experience total loss of vision in the affected eye, or find a blurred spot blocking the center of your visual field. As alarming as these symptoms may be, vision problems caused by MS are more often than not eventually cured.

4. Memory and Other Cognitive Problems

Because multiple sclerosis attacks the nervous system, cognitive dysfunction is one of the more common symptoms of the disease. It affects more than half of all patients and may even be one of the first symptoms to come out. This could mean problems with memory, concentration, learning, perception, use of language, problem-solving, or calculation. Fortunately, cognitive changes are usually mild, and only about five to ten percent of patients experience a significant enough problem to affect their day to day lives.

5. Bladder Dysfunction

Bladder problems affect at least 80 percent of multiple sclerosis patients. The disease can create MS lesions in the nerves found in the central nervous system that control the bladder and urinary sphincters. This may cause a range of bladder related problems, including frequent urination, urinary hesitancy or difficulty in starting or maintaining urination, incontinence or involuntary urination, and being unable to completely empty the bladder. MS can also cause bowel problems and sexual dysfunction.

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and suspect that you might have multiple sclerosis, you should set an appointment with your doctor. Because there are no specific tests for the ailment, you may need to undergo a thorough medical examination that can help rule out other conditions with similar symptoms.

While it may be difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis and it may require much time and patience, detecting the illness sooner can help make your symptoms more manageable. Though there is no complete cure for the disease, proper treatment for your symptoms may ensure that you still enjoy a good quality of life in spite of your condition.