Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the central nervous system, changing the way the brain interacts with the rest of the body and causing a host of serious symptoms. The root cause of MS is still widely unknown, though some experts believe unidentified environmental factors play a role. The disease affects people in different ways. The signs and symptoms of MS vary greatly among affected individuals.
Vision issues such as blurred or double vision are an early warning sign of multiple sclerosis. Some people report temporary blindness, as well. Many also see floaters -- floating dark spots that cloud the vision -- or dark shadows that appear to move when the individual blinks or attempts to moisten his or her eyes. Sometimes these issues can lead to dizzy spells when one has difficulty bringing views into focus.
Multiple sclerosis affects the nerves that run throughout the brain and into the spinal cord, encompassing the body's "message center." Your "message center" sends instructions to the rest of your body. When these signals aren't distributed correctly or not sent at all, you might experience tingling or numbness in various parts of your body. For many MS patients, this often occurs in the legs, arms, face, and fingers.
It's common for people with MS to experience pain throughout the body, as well as involuntary muscle spasms. Approximately half of the people with MS experience some form of chronic body pain. Stiffness in the muscles can become a major issue, especially if it causes jerking movements or severe pain and spasms. This symptom most commonly affects the legs, but can affect the back as well.
One of the earliest symptoms of multiple sclerosis is tiredness and weakness. Fatigue affects around 80 percent of the people with MS. When the nerves begin to weaken and deteriorate in the spinal column, weakness develops in various forms and severity. The fatigue may last for long periods, resulting in weeks and even months of relentless lethargy.
When people begin to experience symptoms of MS, they can become light-headed and dizzy. These feelings may be just as simple as noticing that it is increasingly difficult to walk up a flight of stairs without needing to grasp the rail for additional support, or finding that the world begins to spin out of control when stepping off a bus. People with multiple sclerosis often have vertigo, a sensation that the world around them is spinning.
Research shows 80 percent of people with multiple sclerosis also experience varying degrees of bladder dysfunction. Some feel a need for frequent urination or as though they always need to urinate. These symptoms can progress until it is difficult to control the bladder, leading to the use of adult diapers or catheters.
Multiple sclerosis can affect cognitive performance. This can cause forgetfulness ranging from where one left their keys to the names of family members. Some people may experience shortened attention span and difficulty with organization, which can cause problems in daily life. Some doctors choose to treat these symptoms with medications for conditions such as attention deficit disorder.
Those with multiple sclerosis may develop emotional and psychological conditions including depression, irritability and mood swings, and severe fluctuation between happiness and sorrow. Some experience the pseudobulbar effect -- the process of moving from crying uncontrollably for no apparent reason to bouts of hysterical laughter. Coming to terms with a diagnosis like multiple sclerosis can also have detrimental mental effects.
Multiple sclerosis attacks the brain, which can adversely affect speech. General slurring of words has been reported to occur with the onset of MS. This can range anywhere from minor problems pronouncing certain letters to a general inability to speak fluently. People with MS may also struggle to think of specific words or lose their train of thought in the middle of a sentence.
People with multiple sclerosis may find they are prone to several types of seizures, though this symptom only affects around 5% of people with the condition. Types of seizure include generalized tonic-clonic seizures, generalized absence seizures, and partial complex seizures. These are typically treated with anticonvulsant medications.
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