Early Signs and Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a progressive autoimmune disease. These are the first signs MS is starting to develop.

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It causes your immune system to mistakenly attack parts of your body that you need to live a healthy life. In particular, this condition causes the protective outer layer of nerve cells to be attacked which can harm the function of the brain and spinal cord.

MS has unpredictable symptoms that can be severe and impossible to anticipate. Some people experience tiredness and numb extremities. Those with severe cases of MS can experience paralysis, loss of sight and reduced brain function.

The first indications of multiple sclerosis are:

  • vision issues
  • numb and tingling sensations in the body
  • muscle spasms
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • feeling dizzy and losing balance
  • difficulty going to the bathroom
  • memory problems

1. Vision issues

Visual issues are one of the first signs of multiple sclerosis. Inflammation begins to harm the optic nerve and limits one’s ability to see clearly. This causes double vision, things to look blurry and even blindness.

You may not notice the vision issues right away, as degeneration of vision can happen slowly over time. Soreness when you gaze upward or to the side is one of the first signs that your eyes are starting to deteriorate. There are a number of different approaches to adapt to vision issues that are caused by multiple sclerosis.

2. Numbness and tingling sensations

MS influences nerves in the brain and spinal cord. This means your nervous system can send clashing signs around the body. Or it might not send any signs at all. Both of these lead to a numb feeling.

Tingling and numbness are among the most common indications of MS. Commonly affected areas include the head, arms, feet, legs and fingers.

3. Muscle spasms

Incessant pain and muscle fits are very common symptoms of MS. Unfortunately, half of people who are diagnosed with MS develop some form of muscle spasm or pain.

But it’s not just spasms. People with MS experience stiff muscles and joints too. This stiffness is most common in the lower back and legs.

4. Fatigue and weakness

Fatigue and weakness affects roughly 80 percent of people in the first stages of multiple sclerosis

Nonstop fatigue occurs when nerves in the spinal column deteriorate at a fast rate. This fatigue occurs rather suddenly and can last for months before getting better. Expect to feel this first in the legs and feet.

5. Dizziness and balance issues

Dizziness and balance issues can diminish the ability of somebody with MS to move around. Individuals with MS regularly feel discombobulated, lightheaded, or as though their environmental factors are turning upside down (vertigo). When someone stands after sitting for a long period of time they can often feel these symptoms.

6. Difficulty going to the bathroom

A broken bladder is another symptoms that occurs in up to 80 percent of individuals with MS. This can mean regular urination, nonstop impulses to pee or inability to hold in pee.

Some people with MS also experience constipation, diarrhea, or irregular bowel movements.

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7. Memory problems

Nearly 50% of people with MS develop an issue with their brain and cognitive function. Examples include memory problems, decreased attention span, inability to focus, language loss, depression and other mental health issues.

Other Symptoms

Not every person with MS will have a similar story. Various symptoms can show during relapses or environmental changes. Other symptoms MS can cause include:

  • hearing loss
  • seizures
  • shaking
  • respiratory problems
  • loss of speech
  • difficulty swallowing


A neurologist will perform a number of tests to diagnose MS. These include:

  • neurological exam to check for limited nerve function
  • eye exam to check for eye diseases
  • taking an MRI to create cross-sectional images of the brain and spinal cord and observe any relevant damage

Doctors use these examinations to look for damage to the nervous system.

MS often surprises physicians because of how much it can vary in both its severity and its impact on individuals. Flare ups can last from a few days to a few weeks and then go away. However, relapses can get worse and more unpredictable. Detecting this disease early can help prevent MS from progressing rapidly.