Multiple sclerosis occurs when the immune system becomes confused and begins attacking healthy tissues that cover nerve fibers in the body. When this occurs, it causes nerve problems between the brain and the spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis (MS), a type of autoimmune disease, affects the myelin, the protective covering of your nerve fibers. As the myelin becomes damaged, your nerves can become damaged and eventually deteriorate, which can cause a number of symptoms. Learn the early signs of multiple sclerosis so you will know what to look for and seek out help when they arrive.
When Does Multiple Sclerosis Usually Begin?
Although multiple sclerosis can happen at any age, most people begin having early warning signs of multiple sclerosis between 20 and 50 years old. Three times as many women than men are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which has led researchers to think that hormones may increase the risk of developing MS. Finally, MS occurs more often in areas further from the equator.
Multiple sclerosis can have unpredictable symptoms. The intensity of your symptoms can vary which is why it’s important to know what to look for. Many people experience numbness and fatigue. However, it is important to note that severe cases can lead to diminished brain function, vision loss, and even paralysis. When these signs first begin, you may brush them off; however, by understanding what multiple sclerosis is and knowing the first sign of multiple sclerosis, you can quickly get the help you need to help manage your MS.
Early Multiple Sclerosis Signs
Multiple sclerosis initial symptoms can easily be overlooked or confused with other diseases. MS symptoms can vary from person to person and the symptoms can fluctuate or change over time. One individual may only have one or two symptoms while another may have many symptoms.
The following list of symptoms can help you determine if it is time to visit a doctor. Most multiple sclerosis symptoms can be controlled using rehabilitation protocols, medications, and multiple sclerosis management strategies.
Bladder dysfunction impacts many individuals with multiple sclerosis. Lesions caused by MS may delay or block the nerve impulses that control your bladder and urinary sphincter. The most common bladder issues include frequent urination, hesitancy, incontinence, nighttime urination, and the inability to empty your bladder completely. Fluid management and medications are the two most common ways to manage MS related bladder issues.
People with multiple sclerosis often experience bowel dysfunction. Common bowel issues include diarrhea, constipation, and loss of control of your bowels. Most issues can be corrected through dietary changes, increased physical activity, medications, and adequate fluid intake.
Cognitive issues can occur with MS. Multiple sclerosis affects cognition in many different ways, including how you problem solve, perform calculations, learn, concentrate, remember, and use language. It can impact:
- Information Processing – MS can cause problems with how you process information gathered by your five senses.
- Memory – You may have difficulty learning, retaining, and retrieving information.
- Attention and Concentration – You may not be able to maintain your attention, especially when trying to multitask, i.e. cooking dinner while talking on the phone, driving while talking with a passenger, etc.
- Executive Functions – You may have difficulty planning and prioritizing tasks.
- Visuospatial Functions – You may have difficulty putting things together, drawing, and performing simple tasks. Depth and distance perception can also be negatively impacted.
- Verbal Fluency – Individuals with multiple sclerosis often have difficulty finding the proper words when in conversation. In addition to trouble using language, you may have problems understanding language.
Dysesthesia, often referred to as the MS Hug, is often an early sign of multiple sclerosis. Dysesthesia is described as a squeezing sensation that occurs around the midsection. Patients often explain the sensation as feeling similar to a blood pressure cuff tightening around their torso. If you are experiencing this, schedule an appointment and talk with your functional medicine doctor about your MS symptoms.
Living with multiple sclerosis is hard. There are so many uncomfortable symptoms it can make it difficult to cope. MS can lead to periods of intense emotion. You may experience mood swings, uncontrollable crying, uncontrollable laughter, anxiety, and irritability. Finally, MS has been associated with clinical depression.
Most MS sufferers experience significant fatigue that can interfere with an individual’s ability to fully function at work or home. MS related fatigue is different than just being tired. Furthermore, it is different from other types of fatigue.
- MS fatigue comes and goes suddenly.
- MS fatigue gets worse when it is hot and humid.
- MS fatigue interferes with your day to day responsibilities.
- MS fatigue is more severe than other types of fatigue.
- MS fatigue occurs in the early morning, even if you get a restful night’s sleep.
- MS fatigue typically happens daily.
- MS fatigue worsens as the day goes on.
Walking problems is one of the most common mobility problems associated with multiple sclerosis. There are several things that can lead to gait problems, including:
- Spasticity – Spasticity is the medical term used to descript involuntary muscle spasms and stiffness. The muscle spasms can range in intensity from a feeling of mild tightness to uncontrollable, painful muscle spasms. Spasticity can also cause tightness or pain around your joints and lead to low back pain.
- Balance Problems – Multiple sclerosis can cause a variety of balance problems. Those suffering from balance issues often have a swaying or drunken type of gait. Individuals may have poor muscle control which makes them clumsy and has difficulty with balance and walking.
- Sensory Problems – Individuals suffering from MS can experience severe numbness of their lower extremities, which can cause them to not know where their feet are because they cannot feel the floor.
- Fatigue – Individuals experiencing severe fatigue often experience walking difficulties. They may feel too tired to lift their feet; so, they drag their feet or shuffle when walking.
- Weakness – Weakness in the leg muscles often occur with multiple sclerosis. As weakness gets worse, your stride can change, leading to a change in the way you walk.
The pain associated with multiple sclerosis can affect your ability to enjoy life and do common tasks. Many MS sufferers are surprised to learn that there are different reasons for their MS pain. For example, pain can be due to the damage MS causes to the nervous system. This type of pain is neuropathic pain. MS can affect your gait and lead to changes in your body and pain in your joints and muscles (musculoskeletal pain). An integrative doctor can help you with holistic treatment of pain.
Sexual issues often plague multiple sclerosis sufferers. Because sexual arousal starts in the nervous system, arousal and orgasm can be negatively affected by multiple sclerosis. In addition to the physical changes in the body, MS can cause a number of emotional issues that can affect your sexuality and can reduce your libido.
Individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis often experience dizziness. MS can cause you to feel lightheaded or off balance. In addition to this, you may experience vertigo, which is explained as the sensation that you or your surroundings are spinning. Vertigo and dizziness are caused by lesions on the pathways the brain uses to help maintain balance and equilibrium.
Vision issues commonly affect individuals with MS. Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis) can cause eye pain, dim vision, blurred vision, and color blindness. Typically, optic neuritis only affects one eye. Although this symptom can be scary; however, with proper treatment, vision typically returns. Other vision issues include nystagmus (involuntary, uncontrollable eye movement) and double vision.
Multiple sclerosis can affect every area of your life, including your physical health, social life, vocational life, and emotional health. If you are experiencing the early signs of multiple sclerosis, it is time to seek out assistance from a doctor who understands how the body is interconnected and can help with autoimmune diseases. Our practitioners work with you to develop a customized MS treatment plan based on your unique needs and goals.