The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimated than 200 new cases of multiple sclerosis is diagnosed each week in the United States. Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a demyelinating disorder of the central nervous system — the patient’s immune system attacks the myelin in the brain and spinal cord.
The damage to the myelin affects neural communication. The symptoms that patients experience depend on the location of the demyelination in the central nervous system.
Common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include blurred vision, muscle weakness and cognitive impairment. But can pain occur with multiple sclerosis?
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society cited research that found 55 percent of patients with this disorder have had “clinically significant pain” and 48 percent of patients have had chronic pain. Pain may be a key symptom of the disorder, as it “can be a major cause of reduced function [and] decreased sense of well-being,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
Patients with multiple sclerosis may have trigeminal neuralgia, a disorder of the fifth cranial nerve. The Cleveland Clinic noted that trigeminal neuralgia is more common among patients with multiple sclerosis compared to the general population.
Patients suffering from trigeminal neuralgia have sharp pain on one side of their face, which can be severe. Lhermitte’s sign can also cause stabbing pain, which runs down the patient’s spine from the back of her head.
Multiple sclerosis may cause dysesthesia, which are burning or aching feelings around the patient’s body. This type of pain with multiple sclerosis may be acute or chronic. Patients may have burning pain in their legs, which may get worse at night.
Aching pain may occur in their back or neck. Spasticity can also cause pain for multiple sclerosis patients. These include muscle spasms and tightness in the joints.
So what can be done to treat the pain with multiple sclerosis? Treatment options include medical interventions such as medications. For example, anticonvulsant medications can help reduce pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia and dysesthesias.