Multiple Sclerosis (cont.)
5 Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of MS
The early first signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis are often visual changes.
- Large number of people with multiple sclerosis develop optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve, which is an extension of the central nervous system), described as a painful vision loss. If a patient is diagnosed with optic neuritis early, treatment could change the course of the disease.
- Before the actual loss of vision, the patient may have visual changes described by many people as blurred or hazy vision, flashing lights, or alterations in color.
- The tissues around the eye and moving the eye may be painful.
- Most people recover over several months. Others are left with permanent visual defects.
- Double vision occurs when the eyes move in different directions and is another common symptom of multiple sclerosis.
Other Signs and Symptoms of MS
Multiple sclerosis commonly affects the cerebellum, the portion of the brain responsible for balance and fine motor coordination. Consequently, people with multiple sclerosis often have difficulty maintaining their balance when
walking and performing delicate tasks with their hands. Unexplained dropping of a cup or other object or unusual weakness can occur.
- Patients may experience facial pain, a sensation of spinning referred to as vertigo, and sometimes hearing loss.
- Virtually any area of the body can be involved, making this disease the great imitator of other disorders of the nervous system.
- The patient may experience painful muscle spasms or loss of strength in one or more of the arms or legs.
- The nerve fibers that conduct touch, pain, and temperature sensations are often affected, causing tingling, numbness or electrical-type pain sensations in the chest, abdomen, arms, or legs.
- Multiple sclerosis can involve the nerves responsible for involuntary actions of the bladder and intestines.
- The patient may often have constipation and urinary retention.
- These symptoms lead to other complications, such as infections of the bladder, kidney, or blood.
- Most people with multiple sclerosis complain of a constant state of tiredness. Around 70% of people with multiple sclerosis report fatigue. Something as simple as carrying groceries up a flight of stairs may become an impossible task for someone with multiple sclerosis.
- A peculiar trait of multiple sclerosis is the relationship between higher temperatures and the worsening of symptoms.
- People often complain of worsening of any of their symptoms after taking a hot shower, or participating in strenuous exercise.
- The exact reason this occurs is unknown. Perhaps it is because at higher temperatures nerve conduction decreases, which could lead to further slowing in the transmission of messages in nerves that have already lost myelin.
- Seizures occur in about 5% of people with multiple sclerosis.
- Those affected may complain of sleep disturbances, depression, or may feel that they are experiencing changes in attention span or memory.
Is There A Test to Diagnose MS?
Diagnosing multiple sclerosis is difficult. The vague and nonspecific nature of this disease mimics many other diseases. Doctors combine history, physical exam, laboratory work, and sophisticated medical imaging techniques to arrive at a diagnosis.
- A complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry, urinalysis, and often spinal fluid evaluation are all routine laboratory tests used to rule out other conditions and help confirm the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
- An MRI, which creates an image of the brain or the spinal cord, is used to search for changes within the brain or spinal cord that are particular to multiple sclerosis.
- More often than not, a neurology specialist is required to make a diagnosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2017
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