16 Early Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
One of the important immune-mediated disorders, Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a progressive disease that damages your nerve cells, causing diminished function in the spinal cord and brain. What it happens is that your immunity keeps attacking from mistake parts of your body that are important, vital to your everyday functioning. With very unpredictable symptoms which range from mild to severe, MS is a disabling disease that can cause interruptions between your brain and the rest of your body.
The most common early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) include: vision problems, weakness and fatigue, pains and spasms, numbness, dizziness and balance problems, tingling feeling, bladder issue, sexual dysfunction and cognitive problems.
- Vision problems
As the degeneration begins to appear, inflammation can affect your optic nerve, disrupting central vision and causing all sorts of problems from double vision, blurred vision, poor contrast to loss of vision. The degradation of vision happens slow so you might not notice these symptoms from the beginning but sometimes pain occurs as well, especially on eye movement and that can be quite frightening.
- Weakness & Fatigue
80% of those who suffer from MS feel an unexplained chronic fatigue that interferes with their daily activities and a general weakness that is most noticeable at first in the legs. These symptoms occur suddenly when the nerves in the spinal column begin to deteriorate. They can be managed with assistive devices and with some rehabilitation strategies.
- Pain & spasms
Half of people who suffer from MS experience chronic pain and muscle stiffness and spasticity. These symptoms can occur in any limb but the legs are most often affected. The stiffness feels uncontrollable and leads to a wide range of involuntary spasms and painful movements.
- Tingling and numbness
When the spinal cord that is your body’s message center is affected, you receive all sorts of mixing and conflicting signals all over your body. Numbness of the face, legs and arms and tingling sensations all over your body are some common signals you might receive.
- Balance problems and dizziness
Most people with MS have coordination problems and a decrease in mobility. They might feel lightheaded, dizzy and have the sensations that everything is spinning. The doctor refers to these symptoms as gait problems.
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction
Urinary symptoms occur in up to 80% of people who suffer from MS. Although most of them are manageable with medication or fluid management, it is not pleasant to feel all the time the strong urge to urinate or to not be able to hold in urine. Some also experience constipation and other digestive issues.
- Sexual dysfunction
Sexual arousal is also affected by this disease. When MS damages the central nervous system, together with spasticity and fatigue, sexual responses are affected as well.
- Cognitive problems
50% of those who have MS experience language problems, a short attention span, memory issues and a difficulty to stay organized.
- Changes in emotional health
Sometimes clinical depression, mood swings and irritability can also occur as a reaction to the stress of living with MS. Sometimes people who suffer from this disease can experience uncontrollable laughing or crying as well, these emotional disorders making the disease more challenging than already is.
- Less common symptoms
During attacks and relapse people might also experience
- Speech Problems – especially during periods of extreme fatigue
- Swallowing Problems – when the nerves that control the small muscles in the throat and mouth are damaged
- Tremor – when the nerves that are responsible for coordination are affected
- Seizures – as a result of injured area of the brain that results in electrical discharges
- Breathing Problems – if the chest muscles are severely affected
- Hearing Loss – or impaired hearing
Is MS hereditary?
Although it is not considered a hereditary disease there is a higher risk to develop MS for those who have a family history of MS, so genetics is a risk factor.
To receive the diagnostic of MS, the neurologist will perform:
- A neurological exam: to check the impaired nerve function
- Eye exam: to evaluate your vision
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): to create cross-sectional images your spinal cord and brain
- Spinal tap – a sort of lumbar puncture that removes a sample of fluid from your brain and spinal cord
All these tests should show if the central nervous system is damaged and they help in the same time to rule out other conditions. Unfortunately, misdiagnosis is possible as well since 75% of those who have MS have been misdiagnosed in the beginning.
However, even if MS is a challenging disease, there are treatments like steroids and immuno-suppressive medications that can slow down its progression.