MS patient standing and being fitted with a monitor

Early Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

What are the symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune condition that affects the central nervous system. It occurs when the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective coating around nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. The attack disrupts the communication between your brain and other parts of your body. Although there’s no cure for the diseases, medications, and physical therapy can help you lead a healthy life.

There are three common types of MS:

  • Primary Progressive MS: People with PPMS experience symptoms that slowly worsen without relapses. This means the person won’t experience attacks, although the condition worsens.
  • Relapsing-Remitting MS: RRMS patients experience flare-ups (worsening of symptoms or development of new ones). After experiencing an attack, symptoms fade for a while before coming back. The in-between period might be weeks, months, or even years.
  • Secondary Progressive MS: People with SPMS experience flare-ups where their symptoms worsen over time. However, they don’t have remission periods where symptoms fade for a while.

Early Warning Signs and Symptoms

One of the earliest signs of multiple sclerosis is a condition called Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS). Patients with CIS experience neurological symptoms lasting at least 24 hours. CIS occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks myelin, leading to scars and lesions.

Symptoms of a CIS attack include:

  • Transverse Myelitis: General muscle weakness and face numbness.
  • Optic neuritis: When the optic nerve is damaged. Patients may experience pain when moving their eyes as well as blurred vision that lasts an entire day.
  • Lhermitte’s Sign: A tingling sensation in the back and pain in the neck, especially when you bend it.

It’s important to note that not all cases of Clinically Isolated Syndrome lead to multiple sclerosis. If you experience any of these warning signs, visit a qualified multiple sclerosis center as soon as possible. It’s easier to control MS when detected early, which helps prevent it from progressing quickly.

Common Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

  • Vision Problems: Eyesight complications are a common symptom of MS. They include double and blurred vision, loss of peripheral vision, and involuntary movement of the eyes.
  • Fatigue and Weakness: Constant feeling of tiredness even after sleeping for several hours at night.
  • Tingling and Numbness: MS can cause tingling sensations in the legs. Patients may also experience face numbness and a shock-like sensation down the spine.
  • Muscle Spasms: Painful and stiff muscle spasms in the legs are an early symptom of MS.
  • Loss of Balance and Dizziness: Patients may feel lightheaded and off-balance, sometimes accompanied with a spinning sensation.
  • Sexual Dysfunctions: Fatigue from MS might interfere with sexual drive and sexual ability.
  • Bladder and Bowel Dysfunctions: Patients may have trouble emptying the bladder fully and can also experience constipation and a constant need to urinate.
  • Cognitive Problems: This include memory loss, slowed thinking rate, and difficulty focusing on tasks.
  • Changes in Emotional Health: MS can take a toll on mental health and lead to anxiety about your health.

Secondary Symptoms of MS

MS does not directly cause secondary symptoms. These symptoms are complications that arise from the body’s reaction to the disease. They include:

  • Urinary Tract Infections: The risk of contracting a UTI rises when there is difficulty emptying the bladder.
  • Trouble Walking: Constant exhaustion can result in difficulties with walking easily and steadily.
  • Muscle Weakness: Physical exhaustion can lead to inactivity, which can lower bone density and lead to muscle weakness.

Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms by Sex

Research shows that the rate of multiple sclerosis is three times higher in female bodies than in male bodies. Although there isn’t conclusive evidence as to the imbalance of MS risk, some experts believe that hormones and biological sex may play a key role. Moreover, MS affects male and female bodies differently in three categories:

  • Type of MS: Female bodies with MS are more likely to have Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) or relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). In contrast, most male bodies with the disease have Primary Progressive MS (PPMS)
  • Progression Rate: Although there is no scientific explanation, MS progresses faster in male bodies than in female bodies.
  • Symptoms: Female bodies often show more scar tissue and MS lesions than male bodies, while the latter often have greater cognitive impairment and loss of nerve function.

Causes of Multiple Sclerosis

Scientists are yet to uncover the exact cause of MS. However, research shows that certain risk factors contribute to the condition. The risk factors include:

  • Smoking: Smokers are two times more likely to develop MS. They also have more brain shrinkage and lesions than non-smokers.
  • Vitamin D deficiency: MS is common in colder countries far from the equator. This implies that lack of enough sunlight could increase the chances of developing the disease.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Our bodies need vitamin B12 to produce myelin, the protective covering of nerve cells. If deficient, you are more vulnerable to immune system attacks.
  • Certain viruses: Exposure to certain infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus, can trigger MS.
  • Genetics: Although MS is not hereditary, having a family member with it increases your chances of developing the condition.
  • Autoimmune diseases: Other autoimmune complications, such as thyroid disease, increase your chances of developing MS.

What is the Onset Age for MS?

MS can strike at any age, but research shows that the disease is most common in adults between the ages of 20 and 40. The condition can also affect older adults (late-onset MS) and children (pediatric MS).

The Best Rehabilitation Center for Multiple Sclerosis

At Brooks Rehabilitation, we understand the hardships of living with multiple sclerosis. That’s why we want to help. We have worked with hundreds of MS patients and helped them lead optimum lives.

Visit our rehabilitation center for access to highly-trained clinicians, an individualized care journey, and state-of-the-art facilities that make your stay a comfortable one.

You don’t have to walk this journey alone; contact us today to learn more about our MS rehabilitation center.

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