MS Symptoms

MS Symptoms

You can experience a wide variety of symptoms as a result of MS

MS affects everyone in a different way and no two people with MS will have exactly the same symptoms. Furthermore, these symptoms are likely to change over time.1 While some symptoms may be apparent to the people around you, some won't necessarily be seen by others.2,4 That’s why it is important to discuss these hidden ‘invisible’ symptoms with your doctor in order to better manage them.1

Some of the most common symptoms reported by people with MS include1,3:

A numb feeling in your face, body or extremities (arms and legs).

Extreme tiredness or lack of energy that can affect your ability to function at home or work. This feeling of tiredness remains even after resting or sleeping.

How you learn and process new information or keep your focus can be affected by MS.

While some types of pain are a direct result of MS and are caused by damage to nerves in the CNS other types are because of changes to your body because of MS such as stiffness or spasticity of your muscles.

Blurred vision or visual disturbances are often one of the first signs of MS a person experiences.

Refers to feelings of stiffness and a wide range of involuntary muscle spasms; can occur in any limb, but it is much more common in the legs.

Muscle tightness, numbness, weakness, and balance problems, among other things, may make it harder to walk and keep your balance.

The effects of MS, or the stress of living with it, can lead to emotional changes like depression, mood swings, or irritability.

Bladder and bowel problems are common symptoms of MS however they can usually be managed with lifestyle changes, for example diet, fluids, and exercise.

MS symptoms can be there from the start and significantly impact daily life

People with MS can experience MS symptoms early on in the disease. In a recent survey, over 8 in 10 people living with MS reported problems with fatigue or sensory difficulties (numbness or tingling) in the first year after diagnosis. Other symptoms reported included difficulties thinking, hand function, pain, vision problems, spasticity, mobility issues, emotional changes, bladder/bowel problems and tremors.3,5

Discussing all of your symptoms with your doctor and healthcare team is important to help them fully understand how you experience your life with MS and to help guide any management decisions.

Understanding MS treatment options

There is no cure for MS, however there are many different ways to manage it.6

Treatment for MS typically focusses on:6

• Recovering from attacks
• Reducing the risk of relapse
• Slowing the progression of the disease
• Managing MS symptoms.

There have been major breakthroughs in the treatment of MS during the past 20 years due to new knowledge about the immune system and the ability to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to monitor MS.6 There are many medications now available to treat MS, administered in a wide variety ways and all have their own unique profile in terms of effectiveness and possible side effects.7

In addition to pharmacological treatments, various non-pharmacological treatments and interventions may also be considered. For example, physical activity can build muscle strength and ease some of the symptoms of MS. Your doctor may also encourage lifestyle modifications to help relieve the signs and symptoms of MS. For example, getting plenty of rest, having a healthy, balanced diet, keeping cool, relieving stress and taking regular exercise.8,9

Your doctor will discuss these different options with you to determine which treatment options are best for you. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and some treatments may suit you better than others. Your treatment may change over time depending on your symptoms and your situation.

  1. National MS Society/ Symptoms and Diagnosis/MS Symptoms. Accessed June 29, 2020. Symptoms and Diagnosis/MS Symptoms.
  2. Giovannoni G, Butzkueven H, Dhib-Jalbut S, et al. Brain health: time matters in multiple sclerosis. Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016; 9 Suppl 1: S5-S48. doi:10.1016/j.msard.2016.07.003.
  3. Kister I, Bacon TE, Chamot E, et al. Natural history of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Int J MS Care. 2013; 15(3): 146-158. doi:10.7224/1537-2073.2012-053.
  4. Parker LS, Topcu G, De Boos D, et al. The notion of “invisibility” in people’s experiences of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis: a systematic meta-synthesis.
  5. Kobelt G, Thompson A, Berg J, Gannedahl M, Eriksson J, MSCOI Study Group; European Multiple Sclerosis Platform. New insights into the burden and costs of multiple sclerosis in Europe. Mult Scler. 2017; 23(8): 1123-1136. doi:10.1177/1352458517694432.
  6. Ghezzi A. European and American Guidelines for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment. Neurol Ther. 2018; 7(2): 189-194. doi:10.1007/s40120-018-0112-1.
  7. Filippi M, Bar-Or A, Piehl F, et al. Multiple sclerosis. Nat Rev Dis Primers. 2018; 4(1): 43. doi:10.1038/s41572-018-0041-4.
  8. de Sa JC, Airas L, Bartholome E, et al. Symptomatic therapy in multiple sclerosis: a review for a multimodal approach in clinical practice. Ther Adv Neurol Disord. 2011; 4(3): 139-168. doi:10.1177/1756285611403646.
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