Skip to content

The #1 Sign You Have Multiple Sclerosis, Say Experts

One is more common than the rest.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Multiple sclerosis (MS) has repeatedly surfaced in the headlines in recent years, as celebrities like Christina Applegate and Selma Blair have revealed their battles with the neurological condition, which can be impairing or disabling. Still, the disease—which is caused by the immune system attacking nerves of the brain and spinal cord—can seem somewhat obscure. But it's important to be alert to early signs of MS; with treatment, many people live full and happy lives. There are many potential symptoms of MS, but experts say one is more common than the rest. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.

1

Vision Problems

Inflammation of the optic nerve, also known as optic neuritis, tends to be the most common symptom of MS, according to Dr. Thomas Shoemaker, a neurologist and MS expert with the Rush Multiple Sclerosis Center. Your eyes may ache with movement, your vision may be blurry or dim, or you may not be able to see colors as well. (The colors red and green are often distorted.) This often occurs in just one eye. Fortunately, this is treatable, and often correctable, with medication. Read on for more common symptoms of MS.

2

Numbness or Tingling

Shutterstock

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a numbness or tingling sensation in the face, body, arms, or leg is a common first sign of MS. Someone with MS might have less sensation in a hand, their leg may feel asleep, or their face might go numb.

3

Problems With Balance

Shutterstock

"Difficulty in walking, also referred to as gait disorders, is one of the more common symptoms reported among people with MS," says the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation. "Problems with balance can result in an unsteady gait swaying from side to side. This is referred to by some as the 'drunk' walk." This is caused by a condition called ataxia, when the part of nervous system responsible for voluntary muscle movement is impaired.

4

Fatigue

Sick young woman lying in the bed covered with blanket
Shutterstock

According to National Multiple Sclerosis Society, about 80% of people with MS experience fatigue. Fatigue associated with MS tends to occur daily and can come on even after a restful night's sleep. It can come on easily and suddenly and often gets worse as the day progresses, affecting a person's ability to work and perform daily activities. 

5

Stiffness

Side view of a frowned young man suffering from pain in loin while sitting on white bedding
iStock

Stiffness in the body (also known as spasticity) is another common sign of MS. Muscles throughout the body may feel tight, often the legs, groin, buttocks, and back. This happens because MS degrades the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that control movement and muscle reflexes. The stiffness may be mild, or it can take the form of uncontrolled spasms. Fortunately, a number of treatments are available, from physical therapy to medications. And to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor whose health and lifestyle content has also been published on Beachbody and Openfit. A contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, he has also been published in New York, Architectural Digest, Interview, and many others. Read more about Michael