Those symptoms include loss of vision in an eye, loss of power in an arm or leg or a rising sense of numbness in the legs. Other common symptoms associated with MS include spasms, fatigue, depression, incontinence issues, sexual dysfunction, and walking difficulties.
Here's where MS (typically) starts
Although a number of MS symptoms can appear early on, two stand out as occurring more often than others: Optic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic nerve, is usually the most common, Shoemaker says. You may experience eye pain, blurred vision and headache.
Numbness or Tingling
A lack of feeling or a pins-and-needles sensation can be the first sign of the nerve damage from MS. It usually happens in the face, arms, or legs, and on one side of the body.
People of any age can develop MS. However, people with MS tend to have their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Most of the signs and symptoms of MS below can be managed effectively with rehabilitation, medication and other strategies.
While there is no definitive blood test for MS, blood tests can rule out other conditions that cause symptoms similar to those of MS, including lupus erythematosis, Sjogren's, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, some infections, and rare hereditary diseases.
“MS may lead to a loss of sensation in whatever area of the body corresponds with the damaged area of the brain or spinal cord,” Dr. Scherz says. This can cause numbness or a tingling sensation—for instance, in the fingers or toes. The feeling usually comes and goes, and can be mild or severe.
MS can damage the nerves that affect your muscles. This can cause acute or paroxysmal pain in the form of spasms. Your arms and legs might shoot out uncontrollably and might have pain like cramping or pulling. Nerve pain can also be chronic in the form of painful or unusual sensations on your skin.
It's also common for people with MS to gain weight due to their symptoms. It's important to try and reach a moderate weight and maintain it. Being overweight or underweight can worsen MS symptoms.
Symptoms can appear suddenly and then vanish for years after the first episode, or in some cases never reappear. The symptoms of MS vary greatly and can range from mild to severe. Most people suffer minor effects.
Most symptoms develop abruptly, within hours or days. These attacks or relapses of MS typically reach their peak within a few days at most and then resolve slowly over the next several days or weeks so that a typical relapse will be symptomatic for about eight weeks from onset to recovery. Resolution is often complete.
Tightness or stiffness of the muscles, called spasticity, is caused directly by MS. Spasticity, will alter walking and cause pulling on the joints. This can result in pain typically in the ankles, knees, hips and back.
Abnormal sensations can be a common initial symptom of MS. This often takes the form of numbness or tingling in different parts of your body, such as the arms, legs or trunk, which typically spreads out over a few days.
Many people with MS experience dizziness, in which you feel light-headed or off-balance, notes the NMSS. A less-common MS symptom is vertigo. When you have vertigo, you feel as though your surroundings are spinning around you, Dr. Kalb says, or that you are spinning.
It's easy to mistake sciatica as a symptom or related condition of MS, which often causes neuropathic pain. But while the two do coexist, sciatica isn't caused by MS. It's caused by strain on the sciatic nerve.
Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although MS can occur in young children and older adults. Where is MS most commonly found? In general, MS is more common in areas farthest from the equator.
Can MS cause hair loss? Hair loss is not a symptom of multiple sclerosis, however hair loss is a side effect of some MS medications or other commonly prescribed medications. A diagnosis of MS could also be a contributing factor to stress-related hair loss.
Diagnosis and early intervention
As optic neuritis is the presenting sign of MS in up to 30 percent of patients, the eye exam can lead to the initial systemic diagnosis.
This type of pain can occur all over the body. If a person has neuropathic pain in their back, it can manifest as a sharp, stabbing, or shooting sensation. A person may also experience a burning sensation in the lower back. This pain can feel as if it moves from the lower back into the leg.
Foot drop, or dropped foot, is a symptom of multiple sclerosis caused by weakness in the ankle or disruption in the nerve pathway between the legs and the brain. This disruption means it is difficult to lift the front of the foot to the correct angle during walking.
This pain is described as constant, boring, burning or tingling intensely. It often occurs in the legs. Paraesthesia types include pins and needles, tingling, shivering, burning pains, feelings of pressure, and areas of skin with heightened sensitivity to touch.
Unfortunately, it takes as long as 15 years after an initial diagnosis to know if this type of MS is benign. Neurologists use the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) to assess physical impairment. According to the scale, MS is considered benign if there is: no evidence of worsening body functions.