Multiple Sclerosis is brought about by the degradation of the myelin sheath in the CNS (Central Nervous System) It is thought, with reasonable certainty, that the body’s immune system is to blame. In multiple sclerosis the immune system has become imbalanced and it is attacking the myelin causing the degradation.
The myelin damage prevents the correct function of the nerves, and the signals carried by the nerves, like electrical wiring, may be blocked or misrouted. As the signals carried by the CNS are responsible for the vast majority of bodily functions, it can be seen that when these signals go wrong so can almost any bodily function. I may be wrong, but I believe the heart is the only organ that functions without nerve input.
So what ARE the symptoms of multiple sclerosis? Well, from the above explanation, it should be apparent that the manifestations may take almost any form. Every individual with multiple sclerosis will be different. They may have the same symptoms but to different degrees.
In an attempt to answer the question “What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?” I can only discuss my own indications. I have suffered from multiple sclerosis for a little over ten years at the time of writing and the signs have varied over that time. My early symptoms, perhaps my earliest symptom was numbness in my hands and fingers followed shortly thereafter by a loss of power in my fingers, where I could not maintain grip on objects.
These indications occurred before I had my first attack, I hesitate to call it a relapse as it was the first occurrence. My first attack changed everything as you may expect. The symptoms ceased to be an annoyance and became a disability.
Perhaps the most severe, and frightening, symptom was the loss of eyesight, to the point where I was almost blind. Other clues included loss of balance where I had great difficulty in standing, spasms and twitching of the legs and numbness around the face – akin to a visit to the dentist. This attack lasted for the best part of three months.
During the following remission which was to last almost five years, I continued to have numbness in the extremities and my eyesight never fully recovered which was hard to bear as prior to the relapse I had; had my eyes tested at 20-20 vision. Perhaps the worst ongoing characteristic was a sensation, very difficult to describe, but the nearest I can do is an itching feeling in the core of my legs. This was very uncomfortable and led to very many sleepless nights.
The next relapse brought similar symptoms but this time to a different degree. This time I suffered double-vision in the eyes which caused a continual feeling of nausea so I resorted to wearing an eye patch. This time I could stand but couldn’t walk in a straight line, bumping into walls and door frames. Very embarrassing if I tried to go outside.
The following remission which was again to last five years continued much as the first with the added inconvenience of stomach spasm. This caused a feeling of bloatedness and constant indigestion. I consulted my GP over this one as I found it difficult to believe it was a multiple sclerosis symptom. I was referred to Hospital for an Endoscopy (both ends) which revealed nothing untoward. So, I was forced to accept this was just another of my multiple sclerosis symptoms. My GP has since decided that this is IBS and nothing to do with MS.
Finally, my last relapse was, thankfully, short-lived thanks to a course of prednisolone tablets. This is a steroid, sometime referred to as methyl-prednisolone which is intended to accelerate the recovery from relapse. I am happy to report that it did just that, despite my GP’s reluctance to prescribe it.
What more can I say about my MS symptoms? I suspect I have said quite sufficient. Many other people probably suffer from a completely different range of symptoms but you will need to ask them. The loss of motor control I referred to earlier is often called spasticity, I believe. Although I’m sure what I experienced was insufficiently severe to be called spasticity. I have read about people also reporting loss of hearing as a multiple sclerosis trait, but, surprisingly despite symptoms affecting my eyes, causing numbness in the face and loss of balance, which is in the ear, I have not experienced any loss of hearing (touch wood).