Each year, 27th May is observed as World Multiple Sclerosis Day. An estimated 2.3 million people globally are affected by this disease but because of its vague symptoms, diagnosis becomes difficult.
We list 10 early signs of multiple sclerosis that you should watch out for:
What Is Multiple Sclerosis?
A disease with unpredictable symptoms that can vary in intensity, multiple sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune, inflammatory neurological disease that affects the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).
In this disease, the cells meant to protect the body mistakenly attack the protective covering of nerve cells (myelin) in the brain and spinal cord, causing weakness, loss of muscle coordination, numbness, speech problems and loss of bladder control. Some of the early signs of the disease are:
- Disruption Of Vision
Clinically called ‘optic neuritis’, multiple sclerosis damages the optic nerve and disrupts the central vision. This causes double vision, blurred vision (on single or both eyes) and loss of color perception. Degeneration of vision is slow and may be accompanied by pain when you look to one side.
- Numbness & Tingling
Damage to the nerves caused by multiple sclerosis can disrupt the brain signals sent throughout the body, resulting in a tingling sensation that can cause numbness and happen anywhere on the face, arms, legs and fingers.
- Chronic Pain
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, 50 percent of people with multiple sclerosis had ‘clinically significant pain’ or chronic pain.
- Muscle Spasms
Stiffness of muscle or joints and painful jerking movements of extremities (hands and legs) is also an early indicator.
Chronic fatigue results from severe deterioration of the spinal nerves. It could begin suddenly and last for three to four week. Fatigue is common in 80 percent of people in the early stages of the disease.
- Improper Balance (Vertigo) & Dizziness
With the nerves being affected, balance and coordination gets disturbed, leading to decreased mobility. A person may experience dizziness and may feel as if their surroundings are spinning (vertigo), especially when they stand up.
- Loss Of Bladder Control & Improper Bowel Movement
Nerve damage could result in loss of bladder control, causing an increase in the frequency of urination or the inability to hold urine. This may be accompanied by constipation and diarrhea.
- Cognitive Decline
People with multiple sclerosis experience cognitive problems such as:
- reduced attention span
- language difficulty
- memory problems
- difficulty being organized
- Sexual Dysfunction
A lack of libido may take place as the sensitive nerve endings that arouse stimulus for sexual activity can get damaged due to the condition.
- Emotional Well-Being
Depression is a common sign of multiple sclerosis. The stress from the condition can cause mood swings, irritability and bouts of uncontrolled laughter and crying (pseudobulbar effect). Other non-prominent symptoms include seizures, breathing problems, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, uncontrolled shaking and hearing loss.
How Is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed?
Your doctor may recommend the following tests which look for damage to the central nervous system to rule out possibility of any other condition.
- Eye Examination
To look for distortions in the inner eye and lapsed response times.
- Neurological Examination
Checks for decreased nerve function.
- Spinal Tap
A sample of spinal fluid taken with a long needle and tested.
Treatment For Multiple Sclerosis
The treatment mainly focuses on speeding the time of recovery from attacks (corticosteroids and plasmapheresis), slowing disease progression and managing the symptoms. See your doctor immediately if you experience the early warning signs. This is important especially if someone in your immediate family has the disorder, which is a high risk factor for multiple sclerosis.
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