Cognitive Function Fears: MS or Aging?

Mandy Crest Health Guide January 15, 2009
  • MS or Aging? It's hard to tell.

    Sometimes I know what I want to say, but I can't find the proper words. My mouth is moving and words are coming out, but they're not the right words. Or I freeze in mid-sentence, desperately searching for that missing word, but my internal filing system is in disarray. I've begun to sputter and stammer. Some days are worse than others.

    Word salad, they call it. My word retrieval skills are deteriorating. It's embarrassing and, I'm afraid, it makes for a lousy impression. Funny thing is that this seldom happens when I write. I assume that's because we use different parts of the brain for speaking and writing.


    It's a common phenomenon in multiple sclerosis patients. It's also a fairly common symptom of getting older, something a lot of us over-40 folks have become familiar with and, indeed, laugh about.

    Can't find the keys. Who among us hasn't experienced that one? Ever walk into a room and forget why you're there? Read a page in a book and have no idea what it was about? Accidentally throw away a kitchen knife instead of putting it in the drawer? These are all things that I've done, but I've also observed many of these same things in my contemporaries who do not have MS.

    The problem is that difficulties with cognitive function are listed among the many symptoms of MS. Also in that category are:

    decreased memory
    decreased spontaneity
    decreased judgment
    loss of ability to think abstractly
    loss of ability to generalize
    decreased attention span 
    difficulty speaking  or understanding speech

    Sounds awful. I can't help but be concerned that maybe this is the next obstacle that MS has in store for me. At this point, it's impossible to tell, and I manage to function as well as the next person. Things are not disproportionately out of whack... for my age.

    Before the end of 2009, I will celebrate my 50th birthday. Inside my head, I still think I'm a kid, but the mirror and the calendar beg to differ. Surely not all of my physical problems are MS-related. Some are just a consequence of living for 50 years. I suppose the same is true of my forgetfulness and word salad of late. Maybe I just have too much on my mind.

    Cognitive function. Of all the possible symptoms of MS, this is among the scariest. Already, my body has mutinied against my brain. I can't afford trouble at the helm.

    But for now, I think I'll just... forget about it.