Common Symptoms of MS and the Importance of Early Diagnosis

Common Symptoms of MS - st. charles elder care

Multiple sclerosis is a progressive disorder that impacts the central nervous system. Learn more about the common symptoms of MS.

Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a progressive disorder that impacts the central nervous system (CNS). Believed to be an autoimmune disorder, in MS the immune system attacks the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects the nerve fibers, causing inflammation and damage to the CNS. This damage interferes with the transmission of nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord and other parts of the body.

Multiple sclerosis means “scar tissue in multiple areas.” When the myelin sheath is damaged in multiple areas, a scar is left, also known as plaques or lesions. As more lesions develop, never fibers break or become damaged, and electrical impulses from the brain cannot run smoothly to the target nerve, impeding the body’s ability to carry out specific functions. Plaques or lesions in MS often impact the:

  • Brain stem
  • Cerebellum, which coordinates movement and controls balance
  • Spinal cord
  • Optic nerves
  • White matter in some regions of the brain

Common Symptoms of MS

According to the MS Society, there are more than 1 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with MS. Symptoms vary in severity and no two cases of the disorder are the same. Some individuals may experience only one or two of the most common symptoms intermittently, while others may experience several symptoms for prolonged periods of time. Below are some of the most common symptoms of MS:

  • Vision Problems – Caused by inflammation that impacts the optic nerve and disrupts central vision. Individuals may notice blurred vision, double vision, loss of vision and/or pain when looking from side to side.
  • Fatigue – Occurring in approximately 80% of MS patients, fatigue can be so severe that it impacts a person’s ability to function at work and at home.
  • Numbness or Tingling – Often the first symptom experienced by individuals who are then later diagnosed with MS, tingling and numbness may be felt in the arms, legs, fingers, and face.
  • Dizziness and Vertigo – Feeling off balance or like their surroundings are spinning, dizziness and vertigo can decrease mobility, impact gait (walking), and put individuals at risk for a fall.
  • Pain and Spasms – Chronic pain is a common symptom, occurring in nearly half of patients. Involuntary muscle spasms are also common and can occur in any limb, but most often in the legs and back.
  • Weakness – Resulting from unused muscles or damage to nerves that stimulate muscles, weakness may also impact a person’s gait. Physical therapy, rehabilitation and mobility aids can help overcome weakness.
  • Bladder and Bowel Problems – Nearly 80% of individuals diagnosed with MS have bladder and bowel problems, which may include loss of control of the bowels and bladder. These incontinence issues can be managed with a proper diet, fluid management and in some cases, with medications.
  • Cognitive Problems – Individuals diagnosed with MS may lose the ability to process incoming information, have a shortened attention span, and struggle to organize and problem solve.

If you or someone you love is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to set up an appointment with your healthcare provider. While diagnosing MS can be challenging, it is critical to establish a treatment plan that can target inflammation, reduce nerve damage, and improve the long-term outlook.

At Visiting Care Giving Services, our team of caregivers is specially trained to provide assistance for individuals diagnosed with MS or a variety of other chronic health conditions. We provide both medical and non-medical services in the comfort and familiarity of home that can be customized to meet your specific needs. Email or give us a call today at (636) 493-9058 to set up a free in-home consultation and to learn more about our elder care in St. Peters and the nearby areas.