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Recognize Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

People with multiple sclerosis (MS) tend to have their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. Usually the symptoms get better, but then come back. Some may come and go, while others linger.

Keep track of your symptoms to help your doctor know whether MS or another condition is to blame.

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Whether you have a diagnosis or are worried about symptoms, know that MS doesn't have to control your life. You can work with your doctor to treat and manage your symptoms so you can stay healthy and continue to live the life you want.

Early Symptoms of MS

  • Blurred or double vision
  • Thinking problems
  • Clumsiness or a lack of coordination
  • Loss of balance
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Weakness in an arm or leg

No two people have exactly the same symptoms of MS.

You may have a single symptom, and then go months or years without any others. A problem can also happen just one time, go away, and never return. For some people, the symptoms become worse within weeks or months.

Common Symptoms of MS

These are the most common changes to the mind and body in someone with MS:

Unusual sensations: People with MS often say they feel a "pins and needles" sensation. They may also have numbness, itching, burning, stabbing, or tearing pains. About half of people with MS have these uncomfortable symptoms. Fortunately, they can be managed or treated.

Bladder problems: About 8 in 10 people have bladder problems, which can be treated. You may need to pee often, urgently, need to go at night, or have trouble emptying your bladder fully. Bowel problems, especially constipation, are also common.

Trouble walking: MS can cause muscle weakness or spasms, which make it harder to walk. Balance problems, numb feet, and fatigue can also make walking hard.

Dizziness: It's common to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You usually won't have vertigo, or the feeling that the room is spinning.

Fatigue: About 8 in 10 people feel very tired. It often comes on in the afternoon and causes weak muscles, slowed thinking, or sleepiness. It's usually not related to the amount of work you do. Some people with MS say they can feel tired even after a good night's sleep.

Muscle spasms: They usually affect the leg muscles. For about 40% of people they are an early symptom of MS. In progressive MS, muscle spasms affect about 6 in 10 people. You might feel mild stiffness or strong, painful muscle spasms.

Sexual trouble: These include vaginal dryness in women and erection problems in men. Both men and women may be less responsive to touch, have a lower sex drive, or have trouble reaching orgasm.

Speech problems: Sometimes MS can cause people to pause a long time in between words and have slurred or nasal speech. Some people also develop swallowing problems in more advanced stages of MS.

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