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10 Important Early Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory disease in which the covers of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord are damaged, disrupting the ability of the nervous system to communicate. This means that an individual can lose control of certain parts of their body, even to the point of complete paralysis. Fortunately, a number of early symptoms of this disease are known and recognizable, allowing the affected to get early treatment.


1. Vision

Where it comes from: One of the first signs that you may have MS lies in problems with your vision. The optic nerves can be affected as a result of MS, meaning that the signals coming from your eye to your brain and vice versa - get confused.

What you may feel: You notice that your eyes hurt, either all the time or only when you move them. This can be true of both eyes, although it is more likely to occur in just one eye at a time. It may be expressed as double or blurry vision, or you may notice that certain colors look dim. Another warning sign is uncontrollable eye movements, particularly when you turn to the side.

What you should do: If you experience any of these issues with your vision, you should first make an appointment with an ophthalmologist to make sure that there are no other causes for your vision problems. Only after seeing an ophthalmologist should you consult your doctor or health professional.

2. Your Balance

Where it comes from: MS disrupts the signals between the brain and the spinal cord, which could lead to something called benign positional vertigo (BPV), an inner ear problem that causes vertigo.

What you may feel: If you experience this symptom, you may notice that you easily tip over when you are asked to stand on one leg, or that you feel off balance and clumsier in general. You may even feel unbalanced when you step over an obstacle or curb, or even dizzy when you move from sitting to standing.

What you should do: If you experience any of these effects, you should begin to take mental note of the activities that have become more difficult and think about whether you may have had trouble doing these things in the past.

3. Tingly Feeling

Where it comes from: This is the most common sign of MS, but it is easily missed.

What you may feel: You may feel a tickle, prickly or crawly feeling, much like pins and needles when your feet fall asleep. This becomes a sign of MS when that tingly feeling then moves up to your legs and into your arms. 

What you should do: Every time that you experience a tingly feeling or numbness, you should first try to identify if you've done anything to cut off your circulation. You should also notice if you feel the prickliness just at night (which is a sign of restless leg syndrome) or during the day time as well. If there is no other logical explanation, consult a doctor.


4. Sudden Changes in Body Temperature

Where it comes from: One of the effects of disrupted nerve signals is that it can cause confused sensations, meaning that suddenly you may feel extremely cold or hot.

What you may feel: You may notice that there are sudden extremes of cold and heat mostly in your hands and feet and then your torso, but not all over your body like in a regular hot flash or chill.

What you should do: Keep track of these reactions and tell your doctors about them. If you are a premenopausal women, make sure that these sudden changes aren't

a result of changes in your hormones.


5. Constipation

Where it comes from: Yes, even this could be an early sign of MS. If you've been regular in the past and all of a sudden are having problems with constipation, this is something to take note of.

What you may feel: Be aware if your stools are less frequent and if you need to make longer trips to the bathroom. You also may gain weight and suddenly feel bloated.

What you should do: This is more of a symptom to add to the list of others (as 'proof') because constipation can be caused by many things. If you are unsure, it is best to consult with your doctor before drawing any conclusions.

6. Confusing Symptoms

Where it comes from: MS is not easy to diagnose because your symptoms may switch around in a very confusing way.

What you may feel: You may notice that episodes of stiffness and tremors vanishes, only to be followed later by a bout of constipation. You may feel like you are having one health problem after another and feel as if something is 'off'.

What you should do: Clusters of unexplained, seemingly unrelated symptoms should be brought to your doctor's attention.


7. Trembling Hands

Where it comes from: MS can affect your muscles in a number of ways, weakness and spasms being the most common.

What you may feel: You may notice that precise hand movements, like buttoning a shirt or using tweezers are difficult. Your hands may tremble as you pick things up, and you may feel clumsier.

What you should do: If the weakness and stiffness remain over a period of a few weeks, you should speak to your doctor who will rule out other health conditions like arthritis. In general, muscle spasms should always be reported to your doctor.

8. Fuzzy Thinking

Where it comes from: Cognitive impairment is one of the earliest signs of MS, but most people only recognize it in retrospect, once they have been diagnosed with other symptoms.

What you may feel: You may notice that you are unable to concentrate like you used to and that you are easily distracted. You lose track of tasks when you are in the middle of them, and words slip more easily from memory.

What you should do: Tell your doctor that you are experiencing cognitive differences, especially if you are under the age of 40 - the typical age for the onset of MS.

9. Disappearing Symptoms

Where it comes from: MS is a chronic disease, but it doesn't follow a steady progression, meaning that some MS patients go into remission for a long period of time, until the symptoms reappear.

What you may feel: You may feel confused and frustrated because once you seriously begin worrying about a symptom, it disappears.

What you should do: It's best to keep a record of all that you notice, how long it lasts, and any of the activities that seem to make it worse. Also, note whether you experience the symptoms when you are rested and healthy, or when you are tired and stressed, letting your doctor know.

10. Feeling Tired

Where it comes from: A weak and weary feeling is another of the most common signs of MS, but it is also the hardest to diagnose since it can be a sign of many illnesses. Most MS patients claim that they experience chronic fatigue until other symptoms set in.

What you may feel: You may notice that you are exhausted all the time, that it is hard to get out of bed even when you've had a good night's sleep and you feel physically exhausted. Your arms and legs may feel heavy and clumsy.

What you should do: If you experience fatigue, you should consult with your doctor that this is not a normal symptom and explain that it comes on suddenly. Provide specific examples of when the tiredness and fatigue set in, and that it prevents you from engaging in your daily activities.

MS is a very serious condition that should be treated from its first sign, so be aware of these common early warning signs, and make sure that your friends and families are too.

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