Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a degenerative disease that affects the central nervous system which includes the brain, optic nerve, and spinal cord. MS appears to be the result of the body’s own immune system damaging nerves in various parts of the body.
Immune cells attack nerve fibers and cause inflammation which damages the protective cover around the nerve. This can slow or prevent brain signals from passing through the affected part of the nerve.
MS can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary greatly from person to person. Approximately 70 percent of MS patients experience some of the most common symptoms:
• Vision changes – Blurry patches, color shifts such as red appearing orange or color desaturation such as red appearing gray, or loss of vision in one eye may occur. Inflammation of the optic nerve due to MS is often accompanied by pain in the affected eye.
• Weakness – one or more limbs (arms or legs) may become weak, which may cause difficulties with coordination and balance.
• Walking – Difficulty walking may include dragging the toe or dropping the foot. People who are affected in only one leg may alter their gait by lifting the stronger heel to help the weak leg move forward or by swinging the weak leg out to the side.
• Muscle issues - Muscles may tire more easily, spasm, or may feel numb or prickly. Loss of feeling in the feet may make it difficult to walk.
• Talking – Difficulty speaking or enunciating clearly
• Eating - Difficulty chewing or swallowing
• Tremors or shaking
• Fatigue – About 80 percent of all people with MS report feeling tired, many to the point that they have difficulty functioning at home or work. Fatigue may be the most obvious symptom of MS in people with few limitations on activity.
• Sexual dysfunction
• Bowel and bladder control - Issues may include constipation or bowel leakage, the frequent or urgent need to pass urine, or urine leakage.
Some people with MS may also experience mental changes including difficulty concentrating or paying attention, memory loss, or impaired judgment. Other possible symptoms include depression, paranoia, or uncontrollable laughing or crying.
MS is more common in women than in men, and is most often diagnosed in adults between the ages of 20 and 50. Multiple sclerosis symptoms may seem to go away then reappear, especially early in the disease. About 60 percent of people with MS notice that heat, such as being out in the sun or taking a hot bath, makes their symptoms worse.
If you have questions or concerns about multiple sclerosis, talk to your healthcare professional.
National Multiple Sclerosis Society. About MS: Symptoms. Web. November 16, 2011.http://www.nationalmssociety.org/about-multiple-sclerosis/what-we-know-about-ms/symptoms/index.aspx
Multiple Sclerosis: Just the Facts. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Web. November 16, 2011.
MedicineNet.com. Multiple Sclerosis. Jay W. Marks, MD. Web. November 16, 2011.
Mayo Clinic. Multiple sclerosis: Symptoms. Web. November 16, 2011.
PubMed Health. Multiple sclerosis. Web. November 16, 2011.
Reviewed November 17, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith