5 Symptoms Of Multiple Sclerosis You Should KnowNovember 18 2017
Almost 200 people are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) every week. They join the 23,000 people in Australia and approximately 2.5 million people throughout the world already living with this debilitating disease.
MS is the most common acquired chronic neurological disease affecting young adults, often diagnosed between the ages of 20 to 40 and, in Australia, affects three times more women than men. Your chances of getting it are higher if you have a family history of the disease or other autoimmune disorders. Having a history of mononucleosis and being a smoker also ups the risk.
There is no known single cause of MS, but many genetic and environmental factors have been shown to contribute to its development.
It occurs when the body’s immune system mistakenly targets the fatty substance that protects the nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord.
If you have MS, would you know it? It depends. In the early stages, MS symptoms can come and go; you may have one symptom and then nothing for a few months or even years. Here are the main ones to watch for:
Weakness and fatigue
About 80% of people in the early stages of MS have unexplained muscle weakness, which usually starts in the legs, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. You might also have tingling or numbness, perhaps along with chronic fatigue. The exhaustion usually appears suddenly and lasts for weeks before improving.
If your eyesight seems to be getting worse, it may simply be because you’ve been staring at computer screens or are just getting older. But in some cases, it could be a sign of MS, since the disease can cause the optic nerve in the eye to become inflamed. If part of your field of vision is becoming blurry or you’ve had episodes of double vision, talk to your doctor.
Pain and muscle spasms
Unrelenting leg pain, muscle stiffness, or spasms are all common MS symptoms. The National MS Society says that 55% of people with MS have significant pain at some point. Women with the disease seem to have this symptom more than men.
Running to the bathroom all the time or feel like you can’t get there fast enough? Don’t assume you’re just getting older or suffering the after-effects of childbirth. MS symptoms sometimes include frequent urination, strong urges, or incontinence. Sexual dysfunction can also be a symptom.
Since MS affects the nervous system, cognitive problems are not uncommon. Your MS symptoms could include language or memory slip-ups, trouble staying organized, or notice that your attention span has gotten shorter. That said, only 5-10% of people with a diagnosis of MS have cognitive problems significant enough to affect daily life.
If you suspect you might have MS, start by talking with your primary doctor, who may refer you to a neurologist. You’ll likely undergo an eye exam and a neurological exam. Sometimes a spinal tap is also required to test a sample of the fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
MS isn’t easy to diagnose, and it can take a while to sort it out, so some patience is in order. Experts say you should keep an eye on your symptoms and don’t hesitate to seek a second opinion. According to a survey performed by Oregon Health & Science University, many MS specialists see at least a few patients every year who’ve been misdiagnosed with the disease by other doctors.
If you would like to make an appointment with our medical professionals for a thorough check, please call 03 5229 5192 (Myers Street Family Medical Practice) or 03 5241 6129 (The Cottage Medical Centre).
Sourced from Prevention Magazine