Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Initial Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

The initial symptom of multiple sclerosis are usually visual and may include blurred or double vision, red-green color distortion, or blindness in one eye.

These visual changes are often related to a condition referred to as "optic neuritis". 55% of people with MS will have an attack of optic neuritis at some time during the course of their illness and it will be the first symptom of multiple sclerosis for approximately 15% of people. For this reason, optic neuritis is generally recognized as an early sign of multiple sclerosis, especially if tests, such as MRI or spinal fluid, reveal other abnormalities.

Symptoms Associated with Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary widely depending on the location of the MS lesions in the brain or spinal cord. For instance, an MS lesion in the portion of the brain responsible for vision can lead to visual loss. Similarly, an MS lesion in the spinal cord can lead to difficulty walking.

MS symptoms can arise in various combinations so that a person may experience several symptoms at the same time.

Each symptom can range in severity, from mild to severe, and can persist for varying lengths of time.

Complete or partial remission of multiple sclerosis symptoms occurs in approximately 70% of people with multiple sclerosis and is especially likely in the early stages of multiple sclerosis.

  • Muscle weakness and difficulty with coordination or balance (ataxia). Many people with multiple sclerosis will experience muscle weakness in their extremities and difficulty with coordination and balance at some time during the course of the disease. These symptoms may be severe enough to impair walking or even standing. In the worst cases, MS can produce partial or complete paralysis.
  • Fatigue. MS-related fatigue is also very common. It may be triggered by physical exertion and improve with rest, or it may take the form of a constant and persistent tiredness.
  • Cognitive changes. About 1/2 of all people with MS will experience difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor judgment, but such symptoms are usually mild and are frequently overlooked.
  • Spasticity. Spasticity, the involuntary increased tone of muscles leading to stiffness and spasms, is common among those with MS.
  • Altered sensation of temperature and pain. Most people with multiple sclerosis exhibit paresthesias, which are short-term strange sensations, such as numbness, prickling, or "pins and needles". Less commonly, some may also experience pain. Loss of sensation sometimes occurs.
  • Bowel and bladder dysfunction. Bowel problems and loss of bladder control may also occur.
  • Sexual dysfunction.
  • Depression and other emotional changes. Depression, which is unrelated to cognitive problems, is another common feature of multiple sclerosis. In addition, about 10 percent of patients suffer from more severe psychotic disorders such as manic-depression and paranoia. Five percent may experience episodes of inappropriate euphoria and despair-unrelated to the patient's actual emotional state-known as "laughing/weeping syndrome." This syndrome is thought to be due to demyelination in the brainstem, the area of the brain that controls facial expression and emotions, and is usually seen only in severe cases of multiple sclerosis.
  • Pain (moderate to severe)
  • Tremor
  • Speech disturbances
  • Visual disturbances
  • Vertigo / Dizziness

Worsening MS Symptoms with Heat

For some people, heat may temporarily worsen MS symptoms.Eradicating the heat can often eliminate the problem. Some temperature-sensitive patients find that a cold bath may temporarily relieve their symptoms. For the same reason, swimming is often a good exercise choice for people with multiple sclerosis.


Reference: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your personal medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional.

Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

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