Multiple Sclerosis (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

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Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in duration. Complete or partial remission from symptoms occurs early in a majority of individuals with multiple sclerosis.

  • Visual disturbances may be the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but they usually subside. A person may notice a patch of blurred vision, red-to-orange or red-to-gray distortions (color desaturation), or monocular visual loss (loss of vision in one eye). Visual symptoms due to optic nerve inflammation (optic neuritis) in multiple sclerosis usually are accompanied or preceded by eye pain.
  • Limb weakness with or without difficulties with coordination and balance may occur early.
  • Muscle spasms, fatigue, numbness, and prickling pain are common symptoms.
  • There may be a loss of sensation, speech impediment (typically a problem articulating words), tremors, or dizziness.

Some people experience mental changes such as:

  • decreased concentration,
  • attention deficits,
  • some degree of memory loss,
  • inability to perform sequential tasks, or
  • impairment in judgment.

Other symptoms may include:

  • depression,
  • manic depression,
  • paranoia, or
  • an uncontrollable urge to laugh and weep.

As the disease worsens, individuals may experience sexual dysfunction or reduced bowel and bladder control. Heat appears to intensify multiple sclerosis symptoms for about 60% of those with the disease. Pregnancy seems to reduce the number of attacks, especially during the third trimester.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

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Due to the broad range and subtleties of symptoms, multiple sclerosis may not be diagnosed for months to years after the onset of symptoms. Physicians, particularly neurologists, take detailed histories and perform complete physical and neurological examinations.

  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans with intravenous gadolinium help to identify, describe, and in some instances date lesions in the brain (plaques).
  • An electrophysiological test, evoked potentials, examines the impulses traveling through the nerves to determine if the impulses are moving normally or too slowly.
  • Finally, examining the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord may identify abnormal chemicals (antibodies) or cells that suggest the presence of multiple sclerosis.

Collectively, these three tests help the physician to confirm the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. For a definite diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, dissemination in time (at least two separate symptomatic events or changes on MRI over time) and in anatomical space (at least two separate locations within the central nervous system, which can be demonstrated by MRI or neurological exam) must be demonstrated.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/1/2014

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Multiple Sclerosis - Symptoms Question: The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can vary greatly from patient to patient. What were your symptoms at the onset of your disease?
Multiple Sclerosis - Treatments Question: How do you manage your multiple sclerosis?
Multiple Sclerosis - Diagnosis Question: How many doctors did you go to before you received a multiple sclerosis diagnosis?
Multiple Sclerosis - Causes Question: Were you, a friend, or relative diagnosed with MS? What do you think the cause might be?
Multiple Sclerosis - Type Question: What type of multiple sclerosis do you have? How do you cope with the symptoms and your condition?