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Sure Signs You Have MS Like Selma Blair

Early detection of MS is important so treatment can begin.
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

In projects like a recent documentary, actress Selma Blair—a familiar face to moviegoers since the late '90s—has been raising awareness of multiple sclerosis (MS), a neurological condition she was diagnosed with in 2018. It took Blair years to be diagnosed; initially she thought her symptoms were the result of a pinched nerve or less serious health conditions. As is the case with many illnesses, early detection of MS is important so treatment can begin; many people MS live long and fulfilling lives. These are some of the signs you might have MS, according to Blair and health experts. 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.


Mood Changes

Thoughtful girl sitting on sill embracing knees looking at window, sad depressed teenager spending time alone at home, young upset pensive woman feeling lonely or frustrated thinking about problems

Last October, Blair told the New York Times that when she was seeking a diagnosis, a neurologist asked her if was taking medication for pseudobulbar affect, a condition that can cause sudden uncontrollable laughing, crying or anger. It can occur in people with certain neurological injuries. Blair thought this was just an aspect of her personality; instead, it was a potential first sign of MS. Indeed, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, mood changes are a common symptom and effect of MS; depression is most common. 


A Numb or Tingling Feeling


Blair has said that the first sign of her MS came when she walked in a runway show and her left leg suddenly went numb. "When I first stepped out. I couldn't feel the ground or how to lift my left leg. My brain was trying to compute. As I walked the runway, stunned." According to the NMSS, 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.


Problems With Balance

Woman assisting an injured man on the running track at garden

At times, Blair has utilized a cane to help her maintain balance and steadiness when walking. "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.


Speech Problems

Senior woman conducting an interview

Blair has had to keep interviews short because she has had trouble speaking for extended periods, describing that as "a traffic jam in my brain." Speech problems in about 25% to 40% of people diagnosed with MS, and can include slurring, unnatural extended pauses, or reduced volume.  



Woman suffering from stomach cramps on the sofa at home.

According to National Multiple Sclerosis Society, about 80% of people with MS experience fatigue. It can be overpowering, affecting a person's ability to work and do daily activities. 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. 



Asian women and stiff shoulders

According to the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America, stiffness in the body (also known as spasticity) can be a sign of MS. "It is a tightness or stiffness of the muscles – occurring typically in the legs (calf or thigh), groin, and buttocks," the agency says. "Although less common, some individuals may experience spasticity in their back." This happens because the disease degrades the protective sheath from the nerves in the brain and spinal cord that control movement.


Issues With Vision

Mature woman takes off her glasses and massages eyes.

Vision problems are often another early sign of multiple sclerosis, says the NMSS. Most commonly, they're due to optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve). This often occurs in just one eye. 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.) Fortunately, this is treatable, and often correctable, with medication.

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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