Early Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system. Your immune systems begins attacking the myelin sheath that protects nerves, making it more and more difficult for the brain to communicate with the lower part of the body.

Getting treatment early can help slow the progression of the disease or deal with the symptoms that arise. For that to happen it is important to know what the disease looks like in its earlier stages. Here’s a look at early warning signs of multiple sclerosis.

Sensory Changes from MS

Everyone experiences MS differently because the severity of the disorder depends upon which nerves are damaged or destroyed. Vision problems are one of the most common issues where MS is concerned. The inflammation that affects nerves when you have MS can occur specifically to the optic nerve, causing double vision or blurry vision. Additionally, you may experience partial or complete vision loss. This is often accompanied by pain when you move your eyes, although it often occurs in only one eye at a time. 

Physical Symptoms of MS

You may experience tingling sensations, muscle spasms, weakness, or the area may go completely numb. While this can happen to any area of your body, it is most common in the face, arms, legs, hands, or back. According to the Mayo Clinic, you may also experience “electric-shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward.” Weakness or numbness often presents on one side of the body at a time, in the appendages or trunk. 

The automatic functions in your body may also be damaged. Specifically, many people with MS have difficulty controlling their bladder (urinary incontinence) or bowel movements or experience sexual dysfunction. Urinary incontinence as a result of MS may appear as difficulty “holding it,”or needing to go frequently or intensely. Additionally, it may be difficult to control your bowels, or you may suffer diarrhea or constipation. Sexual arousal occurs through nerves and the autonomic nervous system in the central nervous system—which is often where MS starts. If this is damaged or interrupted, it can become difficult to become aroused. 

Neurological or Cognitive Symptoms of MS

As MS progresses, more and more symptoms may appear, and some of them can be extremely severe. Gait changes may be evident; you may develop an uncoordinated or unstable walk. This is generally among the more advanced symptoms of MS. Fatigue may become more intense. Some people with MS become very dizzy upon standing, experience vertigo, or have difficulty keeping their balance. 

Additionally, roughly half of people affected by MS experience changes in their cognition. It may become difficult to remember or pay attention things, your speech may sound slurred, and getting organized can become a challenge. 

Know Your Risk Factors

If you are at a higher risk for MS, it is even more important to be on the lookout for early warning signs of MS. According to the National MS Society, over 2.3 million people worldwide have MS. This number includes at least twice as many women as men, and there appears to be a genetic link. If someone in your family has MS, you may be more likely to develop it as well. 

Northern-European caucasians seem to be at the greatest risk, but all ethnicities are affected. Additionally, certain infections, cigarette smoking, low levels of vitamin D, and some autoimmune disorders may increase the chances of developing MS. If you’re concerned that you have MS, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.