Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, and sometimes disabling, disease that is not well understood. There is currently no cure for this disease and it is very hard to diagnose. Patients can go on for months or even years with symptoms before being diagnosed correctly. In the early stages there are no laboratory tests or physical findings that can help to identify this condition. In later stages there are changes that can be seen in various tests. If you suspect you have MS, keeping a detailed record of the history of any symptoms you have will help your physician to diagnose you correctly.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system and immune system. The nerve fibers in the brain and spinal column are protected by a fatty sheath called myelin. Think of an orange or heavy duty electrical cord. The extra coating protects the electrical impulses as they travel through the cord to their destination. This is what myelin does for your nervous system. It provides insulation to ensure that the nerve impulses from the brain get to where they need to go. In MS for reasons not well understood, the immune system attacks and destroys the myelin and leaves hardened scars called sclerotic tissue. This interrupts the transmission of nerve signals. The symptoms of MS are different for each person, and symptoms change and fluctuate over the course of the disease, making it a difficult condition to diagnose and treat.
According to the National MS Society, fatigue occurs in eighty percent of all MS patients. It may be at a level where it is difficult to perform everyday activities. Since it is one of the most prominent symptoms, it can help to determine if you have MS. However, there are many medical conditions in which fatigue is a symptom. The fatigue common to MS often occurs on a daily basis, is most prominent in the morning even after getting a good night's sleep, tends to become worse with exposure to heat and humidity and it feels more severe then "normal" fatigue.
Problems with Coordination and Balance
If you have MS, you will have some difficulty when trying to walk straight, balance yourself or coordinate movements. Since the nerve impulses are not getting to the muscles correctly you may develop muscle weakness, muscle tightness and spasms and numbness all of which make it difficult to walk and coordinate movement. This again is a classic symptom of multiple sclerosis. It is good to keep in mind, that inner ear infections and other conditions also cause a loss of balance and coordination. With MS this loss of balance is due to an impairment of the neurological system.
With MS, you may have periods throughout the day when you feel lightheaded or off balance. In more severe cases there may be sensations of vertigo or that the room is spinning. Dizziness is another very common symptom for those with MS. However, like fatigue there are many medical reasons for dizziness.
The term "spasticity" refers to the muscles being tight, and in some cases there are uncontrolled spasms. The spasms can be mild and create a sensation of tight muscles, or they can be severe and painful. For those with MS spasticity is most common in the legs. Another clue that your muscle tightness is due to MS, is if your symptoms tend to become worse when exposed to heat or humidity.
The above are just a few of the common early symptoms of MS. As mentioned, many of them can also be symptoms of many other diseases as well. Only your doctor can determine if your symptoms are from MS or not. However, it is important to play an active role in your own care. Keep track of your symptoms and learn all you can, so you can make informed decisions about what kinds of treatment you should follow. Visit the sites below for more information about MS and how it is diagnosed and treated.