This page about multiple sclerosis or MS symptoms expands on the General Symptoms page, to give a greater level of detail of each symptom and explain where relevant how it has affected me. My initial plan for this page was to keep it factual and formal but discovered I don’t really know enough about the medical background of these symptoms so I can only really relate my personal experiences. Hopefully I have kept it reasonably factual and not too anecdotal.
MS Symptoms in Detail
- In-coordination of the limbs results in unsteadiness when walking, but may affect the upper body affecting eyes, speech and arms.
- Brain Fog
- Inability to concentrate, absent-mindedness, lack of spatial awareness. Not to mention the many ‘senior moments’ that everyone gets occasionally. This perhaps one of the most common MS Symptoms.
- Optic Neuritis
- Blurred Vision, Eye Pain, Loss of Colour Vision, Blindness. Any of these conditions can be very debilitating and extremely frightening. I have not suffered eye pain or loss of colour vision but I frequently have blurred vision even during periods of remission and endured near blindness for a period of several weeks during an early relapse.
- Double Vision. Not so unnerving as neuritis but can be very unsettling. Prolonged bouts can be nauseating, and I found relief only by wearing an eye-patch over one eye. It didn’t seem to matter which eye.
- Movement & Sound Phosphenes
- Flashing Lights when moving eyes or in response to a sudden noise. I often get this at night when in bed trying to fall asleep. Bright flashes of light or even ghostly apparition-like glows from the far side of the room.
- Paresis, Monoparesis, Paraparesis, Hemiparesis, Quadraparesis
- Muscle Weakness. This may occur in the arms or the legs and, I feel, is closely associated with motor control problems.
- Stiffness or pain and a restriction of free movement of affected limbs. Muscles are contracted involuntarily.
- Slurred Speech. I find this more embarrassing than debilitating. I can hear myself, and I sound like some kind of a moron when it gets particularly bad. For some reason it appears to be worse when on the telephone. An outwardly obvious and embarrassing one of the MS Symptoms.
- Dysphasia, Aphasia
- Impairment of communications. In severe case the term Aphasia is used.
- A difficulty swallowing, may lead to inhalation of food particles or liquid and cause choking.
- Muscle Atrophy
- Muscle wastage from lack of use. I can vouch for this, from being an active runner, badminton and squash player and a competitive windsurfer with good solid legs to an inactive stick insect.
- Myoclonus, Myokymia
- Twitching muscles. This one keeps me awake at night. I have no trouble with twitching muscles throughout the day, but as soon as I retire at night and start to drift off to sleep the legs start twitching, sometime quite violently, which makes me jump wide awake again.
- Don’t know this one from personal experience, but I’ve heard it described as dimpling of the muscles.
- Equinovarus Spasticity
- Footdrop, Foot drags when walking. Coincidentally, this morning, I had a visit from a friend who has primary progressive multiple sclerosis and suffers from, amongst other things, footdrop. He was wearing a device bandaged around his leg with a wire running to a sensor in his shoe, which he told me was called FES – Functional Electrical Stimulation. This detects when he lifts his foot which causes a tiny electrical signal to be sent to his leg causing an involuntary lifting of the foot. This, apparently, helps him a great deal.
- Numbness and tingling. One of my earliest symptoms, which at the time was only in the extremities of hands and feet.
- Frequent Micturition, Bladder Spasticity
- Urinary Urgency. Makes it difficult to venture too far from a toilet as you really don’t know when you will need to empty your bladder. Frustrating as you may feel an urgent need which could last several hours before it develops into a real need.
- Erectile Dysfunction
- The inability to achieve or maintain an erection, sometimes called impotence. As MS symptoms go, you can be sure this is the least talked about.
- The inability to become sexually aroused. Somewhat different from erectile dysfunctionality where arousal exists but the physical response does not.
- Inability to achieve orgasm. Often associated with a lack of sensory feeling in the genitalia.
- Retrograde Ejaculation
- Ejaculating into the bladder. Apparently this is a bladder problem as the bladder opening is not sealing closed at the point of ejaculation to prevent the semen entering the bladder.
- UPDATE – Prostate Enlargement can cause this when the urethra is constricted
- Difficulty with bowel movements. I have a pet theory on this, as I believe it to be a form of muscle spasm. The muscle of the sphincter goes into spasm, or a form of cramp, causing the sphincter to clamp shut effectively closing the door to any bowel movement.
- Fecal Urgency
- Bowel urgency. Along the same lines as Urinary Urgency and can be especially difficult if coupled with constipation.
- Uhthoff’s Symptom or Uhtoff’s Phenomenon
- Increase in MS symptom severity with heat. My vision is particularly sensitive to this giving me very blurred vision as soon as my body temperature rises. The level of blurring being in almost direct proportion to the temperature rise.
- Romberg’s Sign
- Patient sways or falls over when eyes are closed. A test for an underlying condition.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux
- Where the lower oesophageal sphincter fails to close properly allowing stomach acids to reflux into the oesophagus causing heartburn
- Impaired Taste or Smell
- A lesion on the trigeminal nerve may interfere with the perceived sensation of taste or smell.
- Sleeping Disorders
- Problems regulating body temperature. Do you ever lie in bed at night shivering with cold and pull up the duvet extra close only to find that five minutes later you are perspiring like mad and have to throw the duvet off? Perhaps worse, you may be perspiring madly but still feel uncomfortably cold and wonder why you can’t sleep.
- Lhermitte’s Sign
- Bending of the neck can cause an electrical sensation to run down the spine.
- Hoffman’s Sign
- Tapping the fingernail of the third or fourth finger produces a reflex action in the thumb.
- Holmes’ Sign
- Patient is unable to react quickly to a suddenly removed resistance when pushing with an arm or a leg.
- Dizziness closely associated with imbalance. This is one of the very common MS symptoms.
- Concentration Lapses
- Difficulty with problem solving and an inability to maintain concentration for any period of time. (see Brain Fog)
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Also called Tic Douloureux, Inflammation or constriction of the fifth cranial nerve that can cause intense pain around the face. Stabbing or electric-shock like pains to the scalp, forehead, eyes or around the cheeks and jaws. Considered by many to be the most painful affliction known to medicine.
- Temperature Sense Reversal
- Where the extremities experience temperature in reverse. Hot objects feel cold and cold objects feel hot.
This list of MS symptoms is not exhaustive, they are merely conditions I can relate to. Multiple Sclerosis symptoms have many manifestations and can occur in varying degrees of severity with different individuals. Any of the above, or other, symptoms should be referred to your GP or neurologist. Additionally, any one of these symptoms on its own is not indicative or a confirmation of the disease Multiple Sclerosis.
Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis: The Evidence-Based 7 Step Recovery Program – George Jelinek
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Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis Cookbook: Delicious Recipes for Living Well – Ingrid Adelsberger
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