With symptoms first exhibiting between the ages of 20 and 40, the signs of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be difficult to recognize. An occasional balance issue, weakness in an arm or leg, numbness or tingling can all be brushed off as something else. It’s important to be aware of all the symptoms of MS so that you can address your concerns with your doctor as soon as possible.
Blurred vision, tremors, bladder problems, a loss in coordination skills (trouble walking), and severe pain are all symptoms that might get your attention more than an occasional “pins and needles” feeling in your arm, but initial MS symptoms vary greatly and may be sporadic over time. Keep track of any changes in your body and alert your physician. Although lab tests cannot confirm MS at this time, a combination of neurological exams, medical history, and MRIs have been successful in confirming a definitive diagnosis.
What causes MS? The Multiple Sclerosis Society explains MS as “an immune-mediated process in which an abnormal response of the body’s immune system is directed against the central nervous system (CNS), which is made up of the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.” It is caused by damage to protective tissue surrounding your brain or spine, making it difficult for your brain to send signals to the rest of your body, but what causes the damage? That remains a mystery. It is thought to be caused by a number of environmental factors and genetics.
Once a diagnosis has been made, what should you expect? Even though MS is not curable, your health care providers have more access to MS treatments and care strategies than ever before. A comprehensive team including a neurologist and other health care professionals will work together to slow the progression of the disease, treat the symptoms you have with medications, and keep you as comfortable, independent, and healthy as possible. They will support you in all aspects of your MS, including rehabilitation for any issues you may encounter, including, but not limited to, mobility, speech, and cognitive functions.
You will also receive emotional support from your care team as you face MS, and take advantage of resources that can help you along the way. Get as much information as you can, but remember that Multiple Sclerosis can affect everyone differently, and your journey is unique. Work with your care team to manage your symptoms and continue to live an active, healthy, and happy life.
 Definition of MS, National Multiple Sclerosis Society; nationalmssociety.org