Multiple Sclerosis can start off quite innocently; long bouts of tiredness, forgetting birthdays you always remembered and blurred vision. The early symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis are so general that even a doctor can miss it. MS occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks the fatty tissue covering your brain and spinal cord. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society says that about 400,000 Americans are currently diagnosed and one new patient is diagnosed every hour. Treatment for MS only retards the progress of the disease, it doesn’t cure it. Symptoms can start as early as in your twenties with women being twice as likely as men to suffer from it. If you have a family history of autoimmune disorders, suffered from mononucleosis or feel your nerves have been shot lately, here are a few symptoms you should look out for.
1. Problems With Vision
Spending too many hours peering at a computer screen can lead to problems with your vision. But if you also experience double vision, a loss of vision for brief or long periods in just one eye or a difference in the way you see the color red, you might need to ask your doctor to rule out multiple sclerosis. With MS, ‘optic neuritis’ can occur, where the covering of the optic nerve becomes affected. MS-related vision deterioration takes a long period of time and would rarely occur in isolation without other related symptoms. An MRI is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
2. Chronic Fatigue
Everyone feels tired from time to time, however, what is not normal is tiredness that lasts for days if not weeks along with difficulty sleeping. These symptoms might disappear after a while and you might tend to forget it. But no matter what your age, it’s important that you get yourself checked out. While fatigue is a common symptom of MS, it could also be because of thyroid complications, anemia or a vitamin deficiency. Either way, it’s best to fix an appointment with your doctor.
3. Muscle Spasms
You might experience numbness or a tingling sensation when you sit in one position for too long. However with MS, the tingling sensation can last for days. The National MS Society says that 55% of those with Multiple Sclerosis have suffered severe muscle cramps and numbness. What’s more, women seem to have it worse than men. Since vertebral disc displacement and other nervous problems might have the same symptoms, it’s best to get medical advice and a second opinion.
4. Memory Impairment
Forgetting a name or searching for your house keys can be pretty common. In fact, fuzzy memory is not one of the glaring signs of MS with only 5-10% of people actually having memory loss due to MS. But even in these cases, the signs can be so subtle that they are very easy to overlook. It could be struggling to find the right word, difficulty in handling more than one task at a time, problems with processing new information or feeling that your attention span is getting shorter. If you suspect your cognitive problems are a sign of a deeper problem, it’s best to take some neurological evaluation tests to make sure that everything is fine.
5. Dizzy Spells
Balance and dizzy spells are often the first signs of Multiple Sclerosis. Stumbling often or getting sudden bouts of dizziness when you stand up can be a symptom of inner ear infection or a cervical disc slip. These symptoms are due to lesions in the brain that coordinate visual, spatial and other inputs which control equilibrium. Early onset of Multiple Sclerosis is difficult to pinpoint since it shares symptoms with many other nervous disorders.
6. Sexual Health
Sexual arousal begins in the central nervous system so it’s no wonder that sexual response can be affected by onset of MS. In a recent study, it was reported that 91% of men and 72% of women with MS have had problems with their orgasms. Women may experience reduced sensation in the vaginal and clitoral area. Men may have difficulty in getting an erection as well as reduced sensation in the penis. However, these are rarely reported as an early symptom of MS as most individuals tend to not bring up this symptom with their health specialist.