What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis in Men?

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Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a condition that attacks both the immune and nervous systems in the body. The condition develops as the covering or sheath of nerves is slowly destroyed by the body's own immune system. The sheath that surrounds the body's nerves functions similar to that of insulation on wires. Without that protective covering, miscommunications between the brain and the rest of the body can occur. Learning how to detect the early signs and symptoms of multiple sclerosis is an essential step toward getting early diagnosis and treatment.

Risk Factors

Multiple sclerosis can affect men as well as women. Women are about twice as likely to develop the disease as men, but studies performed by the Mayo Clinic in San Francisco in association with UC Berkeley and Kaiser Permanente have determined that men are more likely to pass the condition on to their offspring than women. While this is not meant to imply that heredity alone is a cause for the development of multiple sclerosis, it is a factor worth considering for families with a history of the disease. Regardless of gender, symptoms generally begin to occur in the adult years, most often between 20 and 40 years of age.

Decrease in Vision Acuity

One of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis is a progressive loss of ability or function in the muscles. Because the disease process works differently and at different speeds in many individuals, many men may believe they are merely undergoing normal aging processes. Another common symptom is vision problems. Double vision is common, as is decreasing eyesight, which many may likewise attribute to aging.

Numbness and Tingling

Many men experiencing early signs of multiple sclerosis may experience numbness or tingling in the extremities. These symptoms may come and go, leaving many to believe they are experiencing a pinched nerve or overtired muscles. Some men also feel what has been likened to an electric shock when certain movements are attempted, such as turning the head or reaching for an object. However, only as symptoms worsen and strength and function is compromised do many seek medical advice.

Paralysis

An alarming symptom is increasing difficulty in moving a leg, foot, arm or hand. For many men diagnosed with MS, this symptom may be slow in progressing or may appear quickly. Paralysis is not limited to the extremities; it may also affect speech, swallowing and movement.

Memory Loss

As the condition progresses, memory loss may occur as electrical stimulus and communication pathways in the brain are damaged.

Erectile Dysfunction

One of the most common complaints from men regarding symptoms of MS is erectile dysfunction (ED). Also known as impotence, the condition, according to the New York School of Medicine, causes men (nearly 75 percent of those diagnosed with MS) to lose sensations and libido. The psychological side effects of ED add to the stress and frustration of coping with MS. Some men being treated for MS may also experience erectile dysfunction due to medications used to treat symptoms. Each patient should discuss such issues with his doctors to determine if treatment of ED is possible in his case. Medications such as alprostadil and papaverine may help some men. Clinical studies are currently under way to find additional treatments for erectile dysfunction in MS patients.

Additional Symptoms

Some men may also experience a loss of bladder or bowel control, severely impaired coordination and balance and experience stiffness or tremors. Weakness and a general feeling of fatigue or lethargy are also common symptoms experienced by many men.

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