Whenever a possible condition or illness is suspected, professionals warn to consult with a doctor before coming to any conclusions. There are signs related to any condition that may be found as symptoms of something entirely different. Signs taken as alarming by an individual can be simply caused by fatigue, and it is possible to overreact. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder whose cause is unknown. There is no reason that researchers and doctors can find to indicate why some people develop this debilitating auto immune disease and others do not. Genetic factors or childhood infections might have something to do with it, but nothing is conclusive when it comes to the cause.
In MS, a person’s immune system attacks itself, particularly the myelin sheath coating the nerves as protection. When this protective sheath is damaged, there may be “miscommunication” between the nerves, the brain, and the spinal cord. Ultimately the brain and the body are at odds with one another, and there can also be nerve damage, which, once it occurs, is irreversible.
What are some possible warning signs of Multiple Sclerosis? A frustrating part of this disease is in diagnosis. Early signs and symptoms may come and go for months or even longer, making individuals not as likely to immediately see a doctor. It can be hard to pin things down. But some early warning signs may include (NB: The lower down on the list, the greater the chance a symptom may occur later in the disease’s progression, although all symptoms and the order in which they are experienced may vary from person to person):
• Optic neuritis: This is one of the more concrete early symptoms. Other neurological symptoms, such as tingling or dizziness, come and go, whereas with this condition inflammation of the optic nerve can cause blurriness and sometimes blindness. It, too, can come and go, while symptoms may be painful. It is possibly the most obvious of warning signs, although as with anything, no one should make an assumption before speaking with a doctor.
• Fatigue and weakness: Whereas normal fatigue comes at the end of a full day, the fatigue that comes with multiple sclerosis can be frequent and debilitating. In the early stages, this symptom is extremely common.
• Dizziness and a sense of imbalance: This symptom can cause individuals to feel wobbly on their feet or to have to hold on to things as they move about.
• Tingling and Numbness
• Concentration and memory issues: The most common cognitive problems include those to do with short-term memory, like remembering recent events or remembering things to be done. Sometimes finding a word or solving problems can be difficult.
• Pain and muscle spasms: As nerves are being exposed through the body’s eating away at the nerves’ protective layer, the pain associated with MS can be constant and frustrating. People may experience feeling hot or cold, stabbing or burning sensations, and even at times a crushing sensation that when felt in the chest is known as the “MS hug.”
• Mental Health: Clinical depression, that is, a depression that is not merely a brief low point, but that is chronic and interrupts normal life, occurs within about 50% of MS sufferers.
• Sexual Problems: Females particularly (although men, too, may experience this condition) may experience sexual dysfunction due to MS, evident in vaginal dryness or decreased sex drive. The degree of dysfunction varies person to person and is not experienced by everyone.
• Bladder problems: Some people have “storage” issues and cannot keep urine in, while others have difficulty emptying the bladder. Either can occur, although doctors are not sure why.
• Bowel problems: Constipation is more of a problem than incontinence.
• Speech difficulties
• Difficulty swallowing: As with other MS symptoms, this one can come and go.
Researchers have not concluded that this disease is hereditary, however a twin of someone with MS is 30% more likely to have it than another person, and the National MS society says that one has more chance of developing the disease if there is a close relative with it. To diagnose for MS, patients see a neurologist to check nerve function, have an eye exam to check for physical distortions and response times, and a spinal tap to examine the spinal fluid. These tests are not just to test for MS, but also aim to rule out other conditions. The most important thing, professionals say, is to see a doctor or specialist in the field before coming to any conclusions.
By Julie Mahfood
Follow Julie Mahfood on Twitter @JulieWrites2