When discussing degenerative and debilitating diseases, multiple sclerosis is one of the first to come to mind because no cure has yet been identified. In fact, the cause behind the body’s trigger into the autoimmune reaction still eludes the medical and scientific community, which makes it even harder to seek out a cure.
1. Vision problems
Painful eye movement, blurred vision, and vision loss are common early symptoms of multiple sclerosis, as there is often inflammation around the optic nerve that affects these issues. If these symptoms seem to come and go, that could be a clear sign of relapsing-remitting MS, the most commonly diagnosed type of the disease.
2. Tingling and numbing
Feelings as though a limb has fallen asleep, with tingling and numbness, is an extremely common symptom of multiple sclerosis. This is due to the fact that the disease is based on an attack to the central nervous system. When signals are interrupted and not sent to extremities, it results in the feeling of that limb falling asleep. This can also affect the face, aside from hands, feet, arms, and legs.
This sounds like a generalization, but when it comes to MS, more than half of patients complain of chronic pain that comes with their other symptoms. While a small amount of pain once in a while or pain from an injury aren’t the same, the all over aches and pains associated with MS are much more noticeable in everyday life and can be debilitating.
4. Muscle spasms and stiffness
This is perhaps the most common ailment among MS patients and one of the early warning signs of a problem. During episodes (relapses), the patient can experience extremely stiff muscles that make it difficult to move. In addition, sharp jerking and spasms of limbs or in the back can occur frequently. Joints may also become stiff. These symptoms are felt mostly in the legs and sometimes in the back, but there is no limitation to the areas that may be affected, depending on the areas where nerves have been damaged.
Chronic fatigue is a huge setback for anyone, and it’s very common with MS patients. Fatigue is due to nerve deterioration that happens in the spinal cord, and it usually means the patient tires out far more easily and faster than the average person, even with very little exertion. Think about taking a shower, a 15 minute task, and having to rest for hours afterward because there is no energy left for movement afterward. That constitutes fatigue.
Weakness is usually first felt in the legs. Upon initially standing from a sitting position is when it may be most obvious, but weakness can occur in any limb at any time. This can affect the ability to cook, clean, and even perform simple tasks like brushing teeth due to muscle weakness making it difficult to hold up the toothbrush. This is also an obvious early symptom of MS.
7. Dizziness, balance issues, and vertigo
These symptoms are most obvious when a patient first stands up but can strike at any time. It’s very common for people with multiple sclerosis to experience bouts of lightheadedness, difficulty with gait due to balance issues, or feelings as though the room is spinning (or that they are spinning in a room) due to vertigo.
8. Bladder and bowel control
Four out of five patients with MS will experience some form of bladder dysfunction, making it a notable early symptom. This could include an extremely frequent and desperate urge to urinate, inability to empty the bladder entirely when urinating, or difficulty holding in urine.
In some cases, though less frequent, this is accompanied by difficulty with the bowels, resulting in diarrhea, loss of bowel control entirely, or constipation.
9. Sexual dysfunction
Sexual arousal is a condition that begins with stimulation in the central nervous system (CNS), which is the center of the attack by the immune system in multiple sclerosis. Therefore, depending on the area where nerves are damaged, sudden sexual dysfunction could be a warning sign of MS.
Because the areas of the CNS that obtain damage from the attacks in an MS relapse are random, areas that control cognitive functions may be early targets, leading to signs and symptoms early on that include:
- Language problems that weren’t present before
- Newly developed organizational issues
- New difficulties with memory retention
- Shortened attention span
11. Emotional health
Even without being aware that symptoms experienced are related to MS, patients can easily fall into depression or have other emotional changes that are early signs of coping with the disease. Common emotional problems include:
- Mood swings
- Extreme anxiety
- Pseudobulbar affect (bouts of uncontrollable laughter or tears)
While not among the most common, there are other early warning signs that could occur and point toward an eventual diagnosis of multiple sclerosis that, in combination with some of the more notable signs, are of concern. Hearing loss, seizures that are newly occurring, uncontrollable shaking that comes and goes, breathing problems and tightness in the chest (like the feeling of a crushing hug), slurred speech and difficulty speaking, or trouble swallowing can all be signs of multiple sclerosis at work.