Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

Last Updated: October 6 2021

Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune neurological disease characterized by the destruction of the myelin sheaths (nerve insulators) on neurons in the central nervous system. Its symptoms can vary, but eye pain, difficulty balancing, and numbness, tingling, and weakness in limbs are common. Attacks are “multiple” over time and/or location in the nervous system.

Symptoms

Symptoms can vary depending on the location of demyelination. Below is a list of typical sites for lesions to form and their associated symptoms:[1]

Optic nerve

  • Optic neuritis
  • Pain when moving the eye
  • Blurred vision

Cerebellum

  • Instability/dizziness

Spinal cord

  • Weakness in limbs
  • Numbness or tingling in limbs
  • Short electric shock–like sensations
  • Muscle spasticity

Brain stem

  • Blurred or double vision

Bowel/bladder

  • Constipation
  • Increased need to urinate or urge incontinence
  • Erectile dysfunction

Additionally, the diffuse damage in normal appearing white matter (NAWM) and normal appearing gray matter (NAGM) can lead to cognitive dysfunction, which may include issues with:

  • Short-term memory
  • Attention
  • Processing speed
  • Visuospatial skills
  • Executive function

Notably, intellectual function and language typically aren’t affected.[2]

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