Skip to content

Multiple Sclerosis Health Center

Select An Article

Multiple Sclerosis: Early Warning Signs

Font Size

When you have multiple sclerosis (MS), your immune system attacks your central nervous system, affecting your brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves.  Symptoms can vary, and come and go, making it sometimes hard to diagnose. You could have one symptom, and then months or years later have a completely different one, not realizing the two are related. In one study, people went an average of 7 years between their first MS symptom and their diagnosis.

So, learn the common early symptoms of MS. It may help you get diagnosed and treated quicker.

Vision Problems

For many people, the first symptom of multiple sclerosis is in their eyes. Often, MS causes optic neuritis, a condition that damages the nerve connecting the eye to the brain. It usually affects just one eye, but in rare cases it involves both. Symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors that appear dull
  • Pain in the eye, especially when you move it

Often, the symptoms get better on their own within a few weeks or months. But if you have these symptoms, go to your doctor right away.

Other eye conditions linked to MS bring on double vision and involuntary eye movements.

Strange Sensations

The first symptoms of MS may also be unusual sensations around your body, including:

  • An electric-shock-like feeling when you move your head or neck; it may travel down your spine or into your arms or legs.
  • Numbness, often in the face 
  • Tingling
  • A feeling of tightness or swelling
  • Severe itching

Fatigue

Another common early symptom of MS is extreme tiredness. You may feel exhausted even if you haven’t been very active. You may be tired as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Heat-Related Problems

When you exercise, you may get tired and weak as soon as your body warms. You may also have trouble controlling certain body parts, like your foot or leg, while your body is warmed up. As you rest and cool down, these symptoms are likely to go away.

Walking Problems

MS can lead to worse coordination, making it hard to walk. Symptoms can include:  

  • Trouble keeping your balance
  • Trouble walking with your usual gait
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

nerve damage
Learn how this disease affects the nervous system.
woman applying lotion
Ideas on how to boost your mood and self-esteem.
 
woman pondering
Get personalized treatment options.
man with hand over eye
Be on the lookout for these symptoms.
 
brain scan
ARTICLE
worried woman
ARTICLE
 
neural fiber
ARTICLE
white blood cells
VIDEO
 
sunlight in hands
ARTICLE
illustration of human spine
ARTICLE
 
muscle spasm
ARTICLE
green eyed woman with glasses
ARTICLE
 

WebMD Special Sections