Understanding Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic condition involving your central nervous system (CNS). With MS, your immune system attacks myelin, which is the protective layer around nerve fibers.
MS causes inflammation and temporary lesions. It can also lead to lasting lesions caused by scar tissue, which can make it hard for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body.
There’s no cure for MS, but it’s possible to manage symptoms. Learn more about the causes of MS, how it’s treated, and more.
Types of MS and stages
There are four types of MS:
Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS): This is a single, first episode, with symptoms lasting at least 24 hours. If another episode occurs at a later date, a doctor might diagnose relapse-remitting MS.
Relapse-remitting MS (RRMS): This is the most common form. Around 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with RRMS. RRMS involves episodes of new or increasing symptoms, followed by periods of remission, during which symptoms go away partially or totally.
Primary progressive MS (PPMS): Symptoms worsen progressively, without early relapses or remissions. Some people may experience times of stability and periods when symptoms worsen and then get better. Around 15% of people with MS have PPMS.
Secondary progressive MS (SPMS): At first, people will experience episodes of relapse and remission, but then the disease will start to progress steadily.
Early signs and symptoms
The most common symptoms of MS are:
Muscle weakness: People may develop weak muscles due to lack of use or stimulation due to nerve damage.
Numbness and tingling: A pins and needles-type sensation is one of the earliest symptoms of MS and can affect the face, body, or arms and legs.
Lhermitte’s sign: A person may experience a sensation like an electric shock when they move their neck, known as Lhermitte’s sign.
Bladder problems: A person may have difficulty emptying their bladder or need to urinate frequently or suddenly, known as urge incontinence. Loss of bladder control is an early sign of MS.
Bowel problems: Constipation can cause fecal impaction, which can lead to bowel incontinence.
Fatigue: This can undermine a person’s ability to function at work or at home, and is one of the most common symptoms of MS.
Dizziness and vertigo: These are common problems, along with balance and coordination issues.
Sexual dysfunction: Both males and females may lose interest in sex.
Spasticity and muscle spasms: This is an early sign of MS. Damaged nerve fibers in the spinal cord and brain can cause painful muscle spasms, including in the legs.
Tremor: Some people with MS may experience involuntary quivering movements.
Vision problems: Some people may experience double or blurred vision or a partial or total loss of vision. This usually affects one eye at a time. Inflammation of the optic nerve can result in pain when the eye moves. Vision problems are an early sign of MS.
Gait and mobility changes: MS can change the way people walk due to muscle weakness and problems with balance, dizziness, and fatigue.
Emotional changes and depression: Demyelination and nerve fiber damage in the brain can trigger emotional changes.
Learning and memory problems: These can make it difficult to concentrate, plan, learn, prioritize, and multitask.
Pain: Pain is a common symptom in MS. Neuropathic pain is directly due to MS. Other types of pain occur because of weakness or stiffness of muscles.
Less common symptoms include:
respiratory or breathing problems
MS isn’t necessarily hereditary. However, you have a higher chance of developing the disease if you have a close relative with MS. If you believe you are suffering from MS symptoms, contact your doctor and if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with MS and need help managing the physical effects of the disease, contact PCA on 0813 028 0496.