Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

There can be various symptoms of the disease, Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The main signs and symptoms are: hypoesthesia, which is changes in sensation, muscle weakness, abnormal muscle spasms, difficulty in movement, difficulty with coordination or balance, speech difficulties (dysarthria), difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), vision problems, fatigue, pain, bladder and bowel issues, sexual dysfunction, depression and cognitive impairment. Symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

Attacks of symptoms are mild, possibly asymptomatic and self-limiting initially and may not even prompt the individual to see a physician. They may not be identified as being related to MS until the diagnosis phase. The most common initial signs of MS are: changes in sensation in the arms, legs or face, complete or partial vision loss, muscle weakness, double vision, an unsteady gait, and balance issues.

The Expanded Disability Status Scale

There is a clinical measure of symptom progression and the resultant disability called: Expanded Disability Status Scale or EDSS. It is a method of quantifying MS according to disability. This allows neurologists to assign a Functional System Score (FSS)

There are eight Functional Systems (FS), they are: bowel and bladder, brainstem, cerebral, cerebellar, pyramidal, sensory, visual, and other.

Most people who have MS have periods where they are symptom free or their symptoms are so mild that they do not interfere with daily function. Periods of relatively good health are referred to as being in remission. Flare-ups of symptoms after being in remission are called relapses.

MS usually worsens slowly over time, so symptoms will become progressively worse and the number of symptoms will increase as well. The function of a person with MS deteriorates over time. The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and to maintain an improved quality of life for as long as possible.

Individuals are all Different

Symptoms vary from one person with MS to another. No two persons with MS will follow the same course of the disease. This is because we have different types of nerve fibers in our body and each person with MS may be experiencing different nerve fiber damage. There are sensory symptoms that result from nerve fibers being damaged that carry sensory information.

There are motor symptoms from nerve fibers being damaged that carry signals to muscles. The damage can be repaired by the body, only to be damaged again. The body is constantly in a state of damage and repair. MS unfortunately is a losing battle for the body as it is a progressive disease.

There is no way to predict the course of the symptoms. Remissions may last for months even years. Relapses can occur spontaneously or they can be triggered by infection such as flu, high weather temperatures, a hot bath or shower, or a fever.

There are two progressive patterns that symptoms can take in MS. The first progressive pattern is called the primary progressive pattern, where the disease progresses gradually with no remissions. There may be temporary plateaus during the disease in which there is no progression.

The secondary progressive pattern begins with relapses that alternate with remissions, and then is followed by gradual, progression that is interrupted by sudden relapses. This secondary progressive pattern is rare. Very rarely does MS progress quickly, it is normally a very slowly progressing disease.

Common early signs of MS before a diagnosis has been made:

    Tingling, numbness, pain, burning or itching felt in the limbs (arms, legs), or the trunk and also the face.

    Loss of muscle strength

    Loss of dexterity in a leg or a hand

    Feelings of unusual tiredness

    Mood swings

    Inappropriate giddiness




    Memory disturbances

    Inability to pay attention

    Pain in one eye

    Vision difficulties

    Uncoordinated eye movements

Like This Article? Sciencebeta has a free 3 times weekly digest of the most interesting and intriguing articles in psychology, neuroscience, neurology, and cognitive sciences. Want to give it a try? Subscribe right here