The Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is a very unpredictable disease and it's rare for any two sufferers to have identical symptoms.
Because MS is a disease of the central nervous system, affecting the brain and spinal cord, a person's symptoms depend on which specific area has been attacked.
The list of symptoms can be terrifying for someone who has just been diagnosed. So it's important to bear in mind that one sufferer certainly won't experience all the symptoms and will probably not have the majority of them.
Early Symptoms of MS
These are caused as a direct result of the disease attacking the protective myelin sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers in the central nervous system. These early symptoms can vary at different times and can change in duration and severity for the same individual. Some people may go for months or years between attacks while for others there may be a sudden onset or worsening.
Very often the first sign is difficulty in walking. A person may feel that one leg is heavier than the other or have a weakness or numbing sensation in the legs. Sometimes the feet can feel cold or tingling with a "pins and needles" effect.
Typically there may be facial pain (neuralgia) and blurring of vision due to optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve). Sometimes MS sufferers experience acute pain from the nerves. Extreme fatigue can also be a big problem
Less common early symptoms include tremors, slurred speech, paralysis, clumsiness and a decline in your ability to think, remember or reason.
A person may shake violently; there could be a loss of bladder control and bowel problems.
It is important to remember that many of the initial symptoms can be treated effectively through medication and rehabilitation
These are complications which arise from the initial problems. Spasticity can be a problem as the disease attacks the spinal cord - it involves a tightening of the muscles and in some cases uncontrollable spasms which can be both distressing and painful. This in turn can lead to muscle weakness and stiffness which can result in walking and general mobility problems. Spasticity can also cause difficulties in breathing and bring on chronic pain from both the muscle spasms and aching joints.
Some studies have shown that inactivity can lead to osteoporosis putting a person at greater risk of fractures.
Bladder problems can lead to repeated urinary infections and paralysis often results in pressure sores.
A lot of emphasis is placed on treating the physical symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis but the psychological and social ones effects of the disease can be just as hard to cope with.
Depression is common among people with MS. The pressure of dealing with a chronic illness can be huge. It has the potential to affect your relationships, your job and generally your whole life.
If you can't walk or drive you may be unable to work or even get out of the house. You may become reliant on other people and start to lose your self esteem and confidence. MS can lead to impotence and affect your sexual desire and that inevitably affects personal relationships. The strain can be immense.
The devastating effects of this disease should never be under-estimated. But it's important to remember that for some people the symptoms will always remain very mild.