One of the things people with relapsing MS have in common is that they experience the disease differently. The symptoms that appear, and how long those symptoms last, vary from person to person.Everybody’s different | Relapse & remission | Tips | When to call your doctor Expand this section
The type of relapsing multiple sclerosis symptoms and signs you experience may depend on where lesions form. For example, where lesions form in one part of the brain may cause dizziness. Similarly, where lesions form in the spinal cord may cause weakness, while where they form in the optic nerve may cause blurred vision.
While there is no way to know how long a symptom may last or whether it will go away completely or persist, don't be discouraged. You and your doctor can work together to develop a symptom management strategy that may help. Tracking how long your symptoms last and other details will help you create your plan.
Relapses are not the same as symptoms. A relapse is an event lasting more than 24 hours, when old symptoms worsen or new ones appear with a change in your neurological examination. MS relapses may occur at any time, usually without warning. They may be mild or severe. In relapsing MS, relapses are followed by a long or short period of time when symptoms completely or partially go away.
The intensity and impact of relapses can range from mild to severe. They may even be hard to identify at times. For example, you may feel tingling in your fingers—and while you may think it’s just a part of living with relapsing MS, it might actually be a mild relapse.
In MS, remission is a period of time in which your symptoms may partially or completely subside. These periods of time may be either short or long, and may be characterized by a return to a level of health similar or equal to what you were experiencing prior to your last relapse.
For symptom-specific tips, go to the individual symptom section.
This is a partial list. Make sure to ask your healthcare provider when you should call.
If you’ve ever had double or blurred vision, eye pain, or any visual limitations, you’re not alone. Up to 90% of people living with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS) have experienced vision difficulties. In fact, a vision problem is often one of the first symptoms of relapsing MS. Fortunately, vision problems are usually temporary.
MS is a disease of the central nervous system (CNS), which includes the optic nerve—the nerve that transmits light and visual images to the brain.CORNEA OPTIC NERVE
A vision problem is frequently one of the first symptoms of relapsing MS. Fortunately, vision problems are often temporary.
Another cause of vision impairment could be a rise in body temperature, whether from strenuous exercise, a hot bath, or the weather. Heat-related vision difficulties usually diminish after you cool off.
Fortunately, vision problems are often temporary and heal on their own. Steroids are sometimes prescribed for optic neuritis and nystagmus. Resting your eyes periodically throughout the day and/or wearing an eye patch can help reduce double vision. If you have any questions or concerns about your vision,
Some multiple sclerosis (MS) lesions can block or delay nerve messages that control the bladder and bowel.
The most common problem is called “spastic” bladder. This happens when the bladder is unable to hold the normal amount of urine, or does not empty properly. This can leave urine in the bladder and possibly lead to infection.
If you develop bladder or bowel issues, getting examined and treated early may help you avoid complications.
Constipation is another concern for people with MS. Constipation may be caused by too little fluid intake, by your intestinal tract slowing down, by decreased activity, and/or by certain medications used to control bladder symptoms.
Your healthcare provider can help you establish an effective bladder/bowel management program. Occasionally, it may be necessary to consult a gastroenterologist. He or she is a healthcare provider who specializes in treating the stomach and bowel.
Fatigue is one of the most common multiple sclerosis symptoms, occurring in nearly 80% of people with MS. Fatigue can feel like lack of physical or mental energy. Even though fatigue is common, it may not be caused by MS.
Fatigue is one of the most common multiple sclerosis symptoms, occurring in nearly 80% of people with MS.
There are a number of options you can discuss with your doctor that may help reduce fatigue as a symptom of MS. Here are six.
Walking (also known as gait) problems are fairly common for people with relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS).
When it comes to managing walking/balance issues related to MS, exercise, physical therapy, walking aids, and, in some cases, a review of your medications can help. However, MS is different for everyone. So each person’s walking issue needs to be examined on an individual basis.
These issues include difficulty with memory, concentration, and problem solving, which many people refer to as “cog fog.” Memory loss is the most common mental change in people with multiple sclerosis (MS). It can occur at any time in the course of your MS. Even if you do not have physical signs of the disease, you may experience memory loss.
Other factors such as heat, stress, depression, and fatigue can all contribute to memory problems.
Evidence suggests that memory problems associated with relapsing MS occur when there are many lesions in multiple areas of the brain that result in a breakdown in transmission of nerve impulses responsible for the ability to remember. There are two types of memory loss problems:Recent memory:
Newly learned information such as names of people you just met. It also includes things you are trying to remember for the future, like a telephone number or taking your medication. Recent memory is most often affected by MS.Remote and procedural memory:
Information or a skill you learned a long time ago (eg, tying your shoelaces). This type of memory is not as likely to be affected by MS. Other factors such as heat, stress, depression, and fatigue can all contribute to memory problems.
You may want to be tested if you think you are experiencing memory loss. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and possible treatment options.
Sexual issues are often experienced by people with multiple sclerosis (MS). That’s because sexual arousal begins in the central nervous system (CNS), where MS strikes. If MS damages the nerve pathways to the sexual organs, sexual response, including arousal and orgasm, can be directly affected. Sexual problems may also stem from MS symptoms such as fatigue or spasticity. Psychological factors like mood changes may also play a role in sexual function.
Sexuality is a part of life. If you are having sexual problems, please do not ignore them. Speak with your healthcare provider. It may feel like a difficult and embarrassing conversation to have, but remember your healthcare provider is here to help.
The key to a healthy sex life in any relationship is communication.
While sexual issues can be one of many symptoms of MS, it's worth noting that sexual issues are also common in the general population. If you are experiencing sexual issues, talk to your healthcare provider. He or she can provide a medical assessment to determine whether the issues you are experiencing are a symptom of MS or have another underlying cause. Understanding the cause will help your healthcare provider recommend a plan for treatment.
A variety of therapies treat sexual dysfunction. Men should speak with their healthcare provider about the many options available. Women can relieve vaginal dryness by using
Working together to find other ways to give and receive pleasure allows many couples to have satisfying sexual relationships. Abnormal sensations and spasms can often be controlled through the use of medication. If bladder problems exist, techniques such as reducing fluids two hours before intercourse and emptying the bladder prior to sexual activity are helpful.
The key to a healthy sex life in any relationship is communication. Talk with your partner, as well as your doctor. By exploring options and requesting information, you can maintain a satisfying sex life.
More than half of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) find that pain is a problem. Pain appears to result from "short circuits" in the pathways that carry sensory impulses between the brain and spinal cord. It is not a predictor of the course of MS. Pain can be broken into two categories: acute and chronic.
In general, acute pain is sudden and chronic pain lasts longer than three to six months. It may last just for a moment or go on for weeks or months. Chronic pain is persistent, and the pain signals in the body can remain active for much longer.
Pain is a symptom of MS, but you do not have to simply accept it. You should talk to your healthcare provider about pain. An evaluation to pinpoint the source of the pain is essential. Fortunately, there are a number of medications that can help. Speak to your doctor for more information.
Nonmedication treatments may also help and might include exercise, heat, massage, ultrasound, and physical therapy. In addition, biofeedback, meditation, and similar techniques may also be helpful. Again, talk to your doctor about what might be right for you.
What is spasticity? Spasticity means muscle stiffness or spasms. The stiffness may be as minimal as muscle tightness, and may not be bothersome at times. Or stiffness may be so severe as to produce painful, uncontrollable spasms. Sudden movements or position changes can bring on spasticity, as can muscle tightness, change in temperature, humidity, infections, or even tight clothing. Spasticity is common in the knee and ankle areas. However, hips, shoulders, and elbows may also be affected.
Left untreated, spasticity can lead to complications like “frozen” joints (called contractures) and pressure sores. These can also act as spasticity triggers. This means they can set off even more symptoms. So it’s important to let your doctor know if you’re going through this (or any other symptom).
Spasticity varies from person to person. It should be treated on an individual basis. Your healthcare provider can recommend ways to relieve your MS symptoms. He or she can also track your progress and may make referrals for occupational and physical therapists. Exercise, daily stretching, and changes in activity are all ways to help relieve spasticity. Medication may also be an option for you.
In relapsing multiple sclerosis (MS), weakness can be a result of a problem with nerve signals. You may also experience weakness from lack of activity. Sometimes you may be less active because of fatigue, stiffness, or a relapse. The longer you are inactive, the weaker your muscles can become.
With this symptom, the strategies for dealing with it depend on the source of the weakness. Talk to your doctor to determine how and why the problem is occurring and to create the best plan to help deal with it.
Depression is a serious condition that appears to be common in people living with MS. The term "depression" is used broadly when it comes to people with multiple sclerosis. It is often used to describe a wide range of emotions, from feeling down for a few hours one day, to clinical depression, which may last for months. People with MS, as well as their friends and family, need to know that depression, in whatever form, is common.
People living with MS can experience a wide range of emotions including anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, worry, grief, guilt, and stress. Feeling emotional is normal when faced with a chronic illness, and there is no right or wrong way to deal with these feelings. However, it’s important to understand the difference between feeling down and clinical depression.
Depression can be managed
While we still do not fully understand the nature of depression in MS, we do know that:
People with MS often go through a period of grieving. They may grieve the losses they experience due to MS, such as walking or working. This mourning may look like depression. However, grief eventually goes away on its own.
Clinical depression is a serious condition that can last from at least two weeks to several months.
Symptoms of depression appear to be more common in people living with MS. Symptoms of depression may also be associated with some MS treatments. If you experience symptoms of depression or have thoughts of death or suicide, contact your doctor immediately.
Depression does not mean that you are "weak." You should not feel ashamed about being depressed or feel the need to hide it. Depression is manageable.
Depression can only be diagnosed by a doctor. Therapy or medication may be needed. A doctor can treat the condition and prevent an even deeper depression that is harder to treat. It may be necessary to try different medications and different doses before an effective medication, or combination of medications, is found. If you suspect you are suffering from depression, please talk with your doctor. He or she can get you the help you need.
Talk to your doctor about what strategies may help you deal with your emotions.