Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system. The symptoms vary from patient to patient and can cause many difficulties in daily life.
According to the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation, more than 900,000 people have been diagnosed with MS in the United States alone.
Since symptoms tend to worsen over time, it’s important to get an early diagnosis.
In this article, we’ll look at the most common warning signs and possible treatments to help you get back on your feet if MS attacks.
Early Signs of MS
According to John Hopkins Medicine, around 50% of people with MS develop vision problems.
MS causes inflammation of the optic nerve, also known as optic neuritis. This results in temporary loss of vision and sharp pain in your eye.
A study published in the journal Eye and Brain shows that 90% of patients battling optic neuritis experience blurry vision and pain in their eyes, sometimes followed by a complete loss of vision.
Numbness and tingling are common symptoms of MS.
MS first attacks and destroys myelin, a fatty tissue that surrounds nerves in the spinal cord, and then launches a full-blown assault on your nerves. As a result, you may notice a diminished sense of touch, which ultimately culminates in an inability to walk or use your hands.
A study conducted in 2017 revealed that more than 70% of MS patients experience numbness and tingling.
Neuropathic pain is the result of damage to your nerves and nerve roots. It’s often described as a shooting pain that travels through different body parts, including your arms and legs.
Some patients feel stabbing pains that only affect one side of their body, often likened to electric shocks or blows to specific nerves in their leg or hand.
Neuropathic pain can also be accompanied by allodynia, which occurs when normally non-painful stimuli are perceived as painful. For example, you might experience sharp pains in your arms and upper body as you put on a cotton T-shirt.
People living with MS can feel extremely fatigued even after a full night’s rest. This overwhelming tiredness can also cause muscle weakness, making it difficult to perform simple everyday tasks like brushing your teeth or getting dressed in the morning.
MS can also be occasioned by Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, a disorder characterized by pervasive, persistent fatigue that lasts for at least six months.
According to an article published by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), MS Patients may also experience problems with their speech and language skills.
Swallowing can also become difficult for some patients. The NMSS says that between 40%-80% of individuals who have been diagnosed with MS eventually develop dysphagia, the medical term for having trouble swallowing.
Vertigo and Dizziness
Vertigo is a perception of motion when you are, in fact, stationary or at rest. It can also include hearing rapid, slow, or pounding sounds.
Some MS patients may eventually be unable to stand on their feet.
There is no known cure for multiple sclerosis, but there are treatments that can help manage symptoms.
- Disease-modifying therapies (DMTs): This involves using drugs like Ocrevus and Tecfidera to modify the course of the disease rather than simply attacking the symptoms. These drugs can reduce the risk of disability or progression by 65% over ten years.
- Symptomatic therapies: This involves using drugs that treat specific symptoms such as numbness, fatigue, and vertigo. Examples include Baclofen, Diazepam, and Amantadine.
- Steroids: The NMSS says some steroids have potent anti-inflammatory properties that can help manage the symptoms of MS. The steroid most often prescribed is Methylprednisolone.
- Fresnel lenses: These are special lightweight lenses that help manage the optical muscle imbalance caused by the disease.