10 Unusual Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

by Tracy Davenport, Ph.D. Health Writer

Disrupted nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body cause the symptoms of MS. These symptoms can vary from person to person and change over time. Read ahead to learn about some of the more unusual symptoms you may experience if you are living with multiple sclerosis.


Experts say 25 to 60 percent of MS patients experience tremor. These tremors often affect a limb, but some patients have also reported them in the head, torso, and even the vocal cords. Tremor occurs because there are damaged areas, known as plaques, along the complex nerve pathways that are responsible for coordination of movements.


A type of itching known as dysesthetic itching is sometimes seen in people with MS. This symptom is caused by damage to the nerves in the skin or the nerves that send signals to the skin. This damage makes the skin react with an itching sensation, even if there’s no physical cause for it. People who have dysesthetic itching should talk to their health care provider as there are now medications approved to treat to this problem.

Hearing Loss

Some people with MS report hearing loss due to disease activity in the auditory nerve. But experts with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society say that because this symptom is so rare, MS patients who are experiencing hearing loss should see a hearing specialist to see if other factors could be causing the issue.

The MS Hug

Some living with MS experience a tight, painful sensation around the stomach or torso that is commonly called “MS hug.” This symptom is a type of neuropathic pain triggered by a lesion on the spinal cord that causes the tiny muscles between the ribs to go into spasms. Some people say the pain causes them to have difficulty breathing, while others reported the discomfort was severe enough to make them believe they were having a heart attack.

Eye Pain

Damage to the sensory nerves between the brain and one or both eyes can lead to severe pain in people with MS. This pain, caused by optic neuritis, may get better or worse over the course of the progression of MS, and it is often one of the first symptoms people with MS experience. People who experience any pain in their eyes should have this problem checked out immediately by a health care provider.

close up of woman's throat

Trouble Swallowing

An unusual but serious problem that can come with MS is difficulty with swallowing, also known as dysphagia. Like the other atypical symptoms, this issue is caused by damage to the nerves that control this action in the body. People with MS who suffer from this symptom may cough or choke on food or liquids. This can be dangerous because doing so can lead to pneumonia and other lung infections.

Speech Problems

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society speech problems occur in approximately 25 to 40 percent of people with MS, particularly later in the disease course or during extreme fatigue. Stuttering is sometimes reported as well.


Seizures are the result of abnormal electrical discharges in an injured or scarred area of the brain. They are estimated to occur at a higher rate in those with MS compared to the general population according to the Epilepsy Foundation. Facial seizures are the most common type in MS, accounting for nearly 70 percent of seizures.

Breathing Problems

In MS, the most common cause of respiratory problems is muscle weakness in the muscles and chest that are involved in breathing. Some medications like muscle relaxants can also depress breathing.


In one study of MS participants more than half complained of headaches. Sixty-two percent met the criteria for migraine-like headache; 25 percent met criteria for tension-type headache; and 13 percent had features of both types.

Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.
Meet Our Writer
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D.

Davenport is the founder of Tracyshealthyliving.com. Using the latest scientific research, she helps people live their healthiest lives via one-on-one coaching, corporate talks, and sharing the more than 1,000 health-related articles she's authored.