Top 50 Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

by Lisa Emrich Patient Advocate

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS) with symptoms that can affect almost anything from head to toes. The disease is so variable that no two people with MS are likely to have exactly the same combination of symptoms. As MS symptoms mimic dozens of other conditions, it is also important to consider that this list is not exclusive to MS.

Here are 50 of the most common MS symptoms:

Sensory problems

  • Abnormal sensations (dysesthesias)

  • Numbness, tingling, burning, or tightness

  • Pins and needles

  • Severe itchiness (pruritus)

  • Hypersensitivity to touch

  • Pain - acute or chronic, mild to severe

  • Loss of proprioception (sense of body position in space)

  • Inability to detect vibrations

  • Impaired sense of taste or smell

  • Trigeminal neuralgia - stabbing pain in the face

  • L’Hermitte’s sign - electrical shock-like sensation running down the spine and into the limbs when you bend your neck forward or backward

  • The MS hug

Motor problems

  • Loss of strength or muscle weakness

  • Loss of muscle tone (hypotonicity) or increased muscle tone (hypertonicity)

  • Spasticity - continuously contracted muscles and/or muscle spasms

  • Myoclonus - sudden involuntary muscle contractions

  • Tremor

  • Foot drop

  • Problems walking, impaired gait, or mobility problems

  • Paralysis

  • Loss of balance

  • Loss of coordination (ataxia)

Cerebellar ataxia can cause:

  • Gait ataxia - uncoordinated walking

  • Nystagmus - jittery eye movements

  • Intention tremor - shaking when attempting fine motor movements

  • Hypotonia - inability to maintain a steady posture

  • Dysdiadochokinesia - inability to maintain a steady rhythm

  • Dysmetria - reduced control of range of movement resulting in over- or under-shooting limb movements

  • Dysarthria - changes in speech production, including slurring, unclear articulation of words, and difficulty controlling loudness

  • Dysphonia - changes in voice quality, including hoarseness, breathiness, nasal tone, and poor control of pitch

  • Dysphagia - difficulty swallowing

Vestibular ataxia can cause:

  • Loss of balance

  • Vertigo - dizziness, nausea and vomiting

  • Nystagmus - jittery eye movements

Sensory ataxia results in:

  • Loss of body position sense (proprioception)

  • Inability to detect vibrations

  • Romberg’s sign

Vision problems

  • Optic neuritis - loss of vision, eye pain, diminished color vision

  • Diplopia - double vision

  • Blurred vision

  • Flashes of light in peripheral vision

Hearing problems

  • Hearing loss

  • Tinnitus - ringing in the ears

  • Hyperacusis - abnormal sensitivity or intolerance to everyday sound levels or noise

Cognitive changes

  • Short and long-term memory problems

  • Attention difficulties

  • Slower speech or information processing speed

  • Problems with abstract conceptualization

  • Difficulty finding the right words

  • Confusion or sensory overload

Emotional changes

Bladder, bowel, or sexual problems

  • Urinary incontinence, hesitancy, urgency, frequency, retention, or leakage

  • Constipation, diarrhea or bowel incontinence

  • Impotence, reduced libido, or inability to achieve orgasm

  • Reduced genital sensation or vaginal dryness

Sleep disorders

  • Insomnia

  • Narcolepsy

  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS) or nocturnal movements

  • Sleep disordered breathing

Other symptoms

Lisa Emrich
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Emrich

Living with multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid Arthritis, Lisa Emrich is an award-winning, passionate patient advocate, health writer, classical musician, and backroad cyclist. Her stories inspire others to live better and stay active. Lisa is author of the blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa frequently works with organizations in support of better policies, patient-centered research, and research funding. Lisa serves on HealthCentral’s Health Advocates Advisory Board, and is a Social Ambassador for the MSHealthCentral Facebook page.