10 Symptoms That Could Be MSby Lisa Emrich Patient Advocate
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system 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 important to consider that these symptoms are not exclusive to MS.
Numbness and tingling
Tingling and numbness are very common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. However, they can happen to anyone. If this is a frequently recurring problem or appears to be persistent, you may want to consult a doctor. It might not be MS — the tingling might signal a muscle problem, unrelated nerve issue, or something else — but it is worth getting checked out nonetheless!
Optic neuritis (ON) is caused by inflammation of the nerves in the eye. ON is estimated to affect over 50 percent of MS patients at one time or another and is the first symptom in about 20 percent of patients. ON can cause blurriness, double vision, diminished color perception, or blindness, and often causes severe pain behind the eye upon movement.
Fatigue is a common symptom of many conditions, but it is one of the hallmark symptoms of MS. Fatigue affects about 80 percent of people living with MS and can severely affect quality of life, interfering with employment, social obligations, and quality time with friends and family. Fatigue may develop on its own or be aggravated by other MS symptoms, such as insomnia, bladder dysfunction, or depression.
Strange feelings in the arms or legs
Weakness, fatigue, or clumsiness in the arms or legs are not uncommon symptoms for someone who has yet to be diagnosed with MS. Tingling, loss of sensation, itchiness, sensitivity to touch, and weird sensations — such as feeling like water is dripping on your skin, a feather is tickling your face, or an ant just bit your foot — may occur.
Do your legs feel like they weigh a ton when you walk or are you having difficulty doing seemingly simple tasks due to muscle weakness? These could be signs that nerve signals from the brain are not making it all the way to the muscles to get them to “fire” efficiently. If you experience unexplained muscle weakness, you should consult with your doctor.
In some cases of MS, strange limb movement when walking or a subtle lack of balance could be initial signs that something is wrong. Patients with poor coordination may have difficulty walking straight, lose balance easily, or have difficulty managing stairs. Lack of coordination is a common symptom of MS.
Also known as the “barber chair sign,’” L’Hermitte’s sign feels like an electrical sensation that shoots down the spine and into the limbs. It can be quite shocking or as subtle as tingling in the finger tips. It is often more noticeable when the neck is bent forward but may happen when the cervical spine is manipulated in any direction. L’Hermitte’s sign may be caused by MS and is a symptom that may come and go as the body heals itself.
Spasticity describes increased tone and contraction in one’s muscles. It can lead to muscle spasms, extreme stiffness, and difficulty bending or straightening limbs. Spasticity is very common symptom among people with MS and can interfere with normal movement and breathing. Spasticity may also contribute to the MS hug for some people.
Incontinence or constipation
Bladder and bowel dysfunction are common problems for people with multiple sclerosis and can affect those with mild or severe disease progression. Any changes in bladder or bowel function should be discussed with your doctor, because potential causes range from a treatable bladder infection, neurological disease such as MS, or cancer.