Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the central nervous system that affects balance, movement and vision. Multiple sclerosis is an example of a demyelinating disease, where the protective coating called myelin that surrounds nerve fibres becomes damaged.

Myelin protects and insulates nerve fibres, increasing electrical resistance and enhancing nerve signal conduction. Destruction of the myelin disrupts the messages being transmitted by nerve fibres and this leads to a wide range of physical and mental symptoms. In multiple sclerosis, the body’s own immune system mistakes myelin for a foreign body and mounts an attack against it, stripping it away from the nerve fibres.

Aside from myelin loss, the nerve fibres eventually become damaged, leading to increasingly severe neurological symptoms.

Examples of the symptoms that may manifest include:

Visual problems

  • Blurred central vision
  • Double vision
  • Eye pain and paralysis of the eye muscles
  • Colour blindness
  • Flashes of light in the visual field
  • Uncontrolled jerky movements of the eyeballs, called nystagmus.
  • Sudden loss of vision

Sensory problems

  • Changes in sensation such as numbness, tingling, and pins and needles
  • Intolerance of above average temperatures

Muscular and balance problems

  • Muscle weakness
  • Loss of balance and co-ordination, called ataxia.
  • Stiffness and muscle spasms
  • Acute or chronic pain
  • Loss of control of bladder and bowel

Cognitive problems

  • Impaired memory
  • Emotional changes such as depression
  • Difficulty speaking and understanding language
  • Difficulty with problem solving and solving puzzles and logical problems
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Loss of libido

Reviewed by , BSc

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jan 22, 2014

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