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6 Signs You Might Have Multiple Sclerosis

Here are the warning signs.

Multiple sclerosis has drawn renewed headlines in the last few years, as celebrities Christina Applegate and Selma Blair have revealed they've been diagnosed with the condition that affects more than 1 million Americans. MS is an autoimmune disorder that causes the body's immune system to mistakenly attack its own healthy cells, damaging the covering of nerves. This can lead to neurological symptoms that can be wide-ranging, disorienting, and disabling. Here are six signs you might have multiple sclerosis. 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.


Balance Problems


"Balance problems and dizziness are common in people with MS, and can occur early in the disease course," says Barbara Giesser, MD, neurologist and MS specialist at Pacific Neuroscience Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. "They are often described as feeling as though someone is drunk, or walking on a rocking boat. The balance issues can interfere with walking, and can make going up or down stairs particularly challenging."

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Numbness or Tingling

male arms holding his painful wrist

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, a numbness or tingling sensation is the first sign of MS for many. This may be felt in the face, body, arms, or legs. A person might have less sensation in a hand, their leg may feel "asleep" (like it's on pins and needles, a.k.a. paresthesia), or their face can seem numb.

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Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

"Vertigo, or the sensation that either the individual themself or the world around them is spinning or moving, may also occur," says Giesser. "People with MS who have disorders of disequilibrium may sometimes have other symptoms such as tremor or bouncing visual disturbances."

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Vision Problems

Portrait of mature man with big black eye glasses trying to read book but having difficulties seeing text because of vision problems

Vision issues are the first sign of multiple sclerosis in many people, says the NMSA. Optic neuritis—or inflammation of the optic nerve—often happens in just one yee, and it can cause an aching pain with eye movement, blurry vision, dimmed vision, or a loss of ability to see color (for example, vivid colors may look bland or gray). The colors red and green, in particular, may be distorted. Fortunately, this condition is treatable with medication and can often be corrected.

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Stiffness or Weakness

young woman with kidney pain

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, MS can involuntarily increase the tone of muscles, causing stiffness and spasms. Conversely, an affected person may experience muscle weakness in the arms and legs. This may be caused by reduced use, or damage to the nerve fibers in the spinal cord or brain that control muscles. Physical therapy may help. 

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tired man

According to the NMSA, about 80% of people with MS experience fatigue. This isn't just simple tiredness; it can impact the ability to work and perform daily activities. Fatigue associated with MS tends to occur daily, can come on even after a restful night's sleep, tends to come on easily and suddenly, and often gets worse as the day progresses. 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. Read more about Michael
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