People with multiple sclerosis (MS) tend to have their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually the symptoms get better, but then come back. Some may come and go, while others linger.
Keep track of your symptoms to help your doctor know whether MS or another condition is to blame.
Whether you have a diagnosis or are worried about symptoms, know that MS doesn’t have to control your life. You can work with your doctor to treat and manage your symptoms so you can stay healthy and continue to live the life you want.
Early Symptoms of MS
Blurred or double vision
Clumsiness or a lack of coordination
Loss of balance
RWeakness in an arm or leg
No two people have exactly the same symptoms of MS.
You may have a single symptom, and then go months or years without any others. A problem can also happen just one time, go away, and never return. For some people, the symptoms become worse within weeks or months.
Common Symptoms of MS
These are the most common changes to the mind and body in someone with MS:
Unusual sensations: People with MS often say they feel a “pins and needles” sensation. They may also have numbness, itching, burning, stabbing, or tearing pains. About half of people with MS have these uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, they can be managed or treated.
Bladder problems: About 8 in 10 people have bladder problems, which can be treated. You may need to pee often, urgently, need to go at night, or have trouble emptying your bladder fully. Bowel problems, especially constipation, are also common.
Trouble walking: MS can cause muscle weakness or spasms, which make it harder to walk. Balance problems, numb feet, and fatigue can also make walking hard.
Dizziness: It’s common to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You usually won’t have vertigo, or the feeling that the room is spinning.
Fatigue: About 8 in 10 people feel very tired. It often comes on in the afternoon and causes weak muscles, slowed thinking, or sleepiness. It’s usually not related to the amount of work you do. Some people with MS say they can feel tired even after a good night’s sleep.
Muscle spasms: They usually affect the leg muscles. For about 40% of people they are an early symptom of MS. In progressive MS, muscle spasms affect about 6 in 10 people. You might feel mild stiffness or strong, painful muscle spasms.
Sexual trouble: These include vaginal dryness in women and erection problems in men. Both men and women may be less responsive to touch, have a lower sex drive, or have trouble reaching orgasm.
Speech problems: Sometimes MS can cause people to pause a long time in between words and have slurred or nasal speech. Some people also develop swallowing problems in more advanced stages of MS.
Thinking problems: About half of people with MS have trouble concentrating that comes and goes. For most, this means slowed thinking, poor attention, or fuzzy memory. Rarely, people can have severe problems that make it hard to do daily tasks. MS usually does not change your intellect and ability to read and understand conversation.
Tremors: About half of people with MS have tremors. They can be minor shakes or make it hard to do everyday activities.
Vision problems: Problems with your eyes tend to be one of the first symptoms. They usually affect only one eye and go away on their own. Your sight may be blurry, gray, or have a dark spot in the center. You may suddenly have eye pain and temporary vision loss.
Very rarely, people with MS may have breathing problems or seizures.
What Causes MS Symptoms?
Doctors divide the symptoms into three groups: primary, secondary, and tertiary.
Primary symptoms come from damage to the protective sheath around the nerves in your spine or brain. The damage causes scarring, which makes it harder for signals to travel between the brain and the body.
This process can lead to bladder or bowel problems, loss of balance, numbness, paralysis, tingling, tremors, vision problems, or weakness.
Medicine, physical therapy, and other treatments can keep many of these problems under control.
Secondary symptoms follow the main problems of MS. For instance, not being able to empty your bladder can lead to a bladder infection.
Doctors can treat secondary symptoms, but the goal is to avoid them by treating the primary symptoms.
Tertiary symptoms are the social, psychological, and job-related problems of living with MS. For instance, if MS makes it hard for you to walk or drive, you may not be able to do your job well.
Because MS varies so much, it’s best not to compare yourself with other people who have MS. Your experience is likely to be different. Most people learn to manage their symptoms and can keep leading full, active lives.
Alternative Medicine and Complementary Care for MS
By Kara Mayer Robinson
Reviewed By Richard Senelick, MD
A variety of alternative and complementary treatments can help with MS symptoms like pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms. Research is still new, so they haven’t been fully tested yet. But many people get relief from them.
In acupuncture, a professional inserts thin needles into specific points in your body.
Does it work? “We don’t have a lot of data,” says Matthew McCoyd, MD, a neurologist and MS specialist at Loyola University Medical Center. More research is needed.
Some small studies suggest acupuncture can reduce pain, muscle spasms, numbness, tingling, bladder problems, and depression.
Although it may help ease symptoms, there’s no evidence that it reduces how often you get MS flare-ups or slows the progress of the disease.
Is it safe? It generally is when done by a well-trained, licensed professional.
Some experts suggest that if your spine isn’t properly aligned, it can cause pain or problems in muscles or organs. The theory is that when a chiropractor makes adjustments, your body gets back to functioning normally.
Does it work? It’s most helpful for lower back pain. It may also reduce neck pain and headaches. But it doesn’t seem to change the course of MS.
Is it safe? You may get side effects like headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue. Serious problems, like stroke and bone fractures, are rare.
Certain people have higher risks. If you’re pregnant, for example, it’s best to avoid it.
Does it work? Some new studies suggest medical marijuana may help with muscle spasms and stiffness, pain, and sleep problems. But more research is needed.
A marijuana-based spray called Sativex is approved for use in Canada and the U.K., McCoyd says, but it’s not available in the U.S. Research suggests the spray may improve muscle spasms and stiffness, pain, and the urge to urinate frequently.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society supports the use of medical marijuana to treat MS symptoms if you talk to your doctor and do it legally. Medical marijuana is legal in many U.S. states.
Is it safe? Some research suggests medical marijuana may worsen thinking problems that can go along with MS. A recent study also shows you may get side effects like urinary tract infections, dizziness, dry mouth, and headache.
Does it work? Massage can improve your MS symptoms.
“It can provide stress relief, help with tense muscles,” says Rosalind Kalb, PhD, vice president of clinical programs at the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. “And when you have spasticity in your legs or arms, it can provide relief.”
Massage may also boost your range of motion, increase your blood flow, and reduce your pain and anxiety.
Is it safe? There are many types of massage therapy, like Swedish massage, acupressure, and shiatsu. Many are safe. “But some types are not good for MS, so it’s very important to talk to your doctor about the exact type you’re proposing to do,” Kalb says.
Does it work? “There’s a growing body of evidence now that certain types of meditation and other stress management techniques can relieve stress in MS,” Kalb says.
A recent study suggests it can help with depression and fatigue. It may also help reduce how often you have flare-ups.
Is it safe? Yes. But some types may be hard to practice if they involve physical movement. Your doctor can help you decide what’s best.
Do they work? “There’s really no data to support the use of herbal medicines,” McCoyd says.
Some research suggests the herb ginkgo biloba may help with fatigue and reduce the severity of symptoms, but it hasn’t been proven to be effective. More studies are needed.
Is it safe? Some herbs can have serious side effects. Ginkgo biloba has been linked to serious bleeding, so you should avoid it.
Your doctor can help you decide which treatments are best for you. If you try a new therapy, don’t use it as a substitute for your regular treatment.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the brain and spinal cord. Early MS symptoms include weakness, tingling, numbness, and blurred vision. Other signs are muscle stiffness, thinking problems, and urinary problems. Treatment can relieve MS symptoms and delay disease progression.
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How RESERVE™ changed the life of a multiple sclerosis patient
Alvin Phua suffered from multiple sclerosis (MS) since 2000. MS is a disease where a person’s immune system incorrectly attacks the central nervous system (i.e. brain, spinal cord and optic nerves), resulting in many disabilities. Alvin’s story was reported in an article by the National University Hospital of Singapore in 2007 (see: NUH_Alvin Phua_multiple sclerosis).
Alvin’s vision became patchy, his speech was slurred, he couldn’t walk properly and he couldn’t hold or lift things with his hands. Sometimes he gets bad attacks, such as paralysis and loss of vision. His treatment consisted of a drug injection (beta interferon, costing ~SGD2,200/mth) – this drug initially made him so tired that he couldn’t even turn over in bed, and gave him flu-like symptoms. In May 2011, he had chemotherapy which left him weak and frail.
It was around this time when Alvin was introduced to Jeunesse and RESERVE™. Although apprehensive at first, today Alvin is in good health thanks to RESERVE™. He is able to speak and walk normally again, use his hands properly, and regained bladder control. MRI scans also show that damaged tissues in his brain have fully healed. It’s amazing how Jeunesse and RESERVE™ have changed his life.