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What are symptoms of MS?

Read about the symptoms of MS and how to detect them.

Patients suffering from MS may find their balance impaired. [©Shutterstock, 2010]
©Shutterstock, 2010
Patients suffering from MS may find their balance impaired.

Each MS (multiple sclerosis) patient may experience different symptoms of MS, which might last for a long period of time, come and go sporadically, or even disappear altogether. Symptoms of MS vary according to the specific location and extent of damage. For example, if the patient's motor nerves are damaged, symptoms may include muscle weakness or vision problems. Fortunately, most symptoms of MS can be successfully treated.

Symptoms of MS can range from fatigue to vision loss to speech problems. MS is a result of damage to the central nervous system that affects the spinal cord and brain. Numbness or burning sensations are two of the symptoms of MS that result from sensory nerve damage, while motor nerve damage can cause muscle weakness.   The National Multiple Sclerosis Society's Symptoms Web Page provides detailed information about symptoms and links to resources.


Fatigue is the most common symptom of MS; however, MS fatigue is quite different from the ordinary fatigue that people may experience from time to time. Many MS patients experience fatigue so overwhelming that they have trouble with everyday activities like simple household chores or driving to work. The fatigue is usually present every day and can become more intense with each passing hour. Hot, humid weather tends to worsen fatigue. Treatment options for this symptom of MS include occupational or group therapy and medications.


Numbness, tingling or burning feelings are other common symptoms of MS. These sensations are usually felt in the arms, legs, body or face. Numbness most often occurs on one side of the body. Some MS sufferers even report electric shock sensations when moving their head a certain way. Depending on the severity of these symptoms of MS, the patient's activities may be limited. Numbness in the legs, for example, can affect a patient's ability to walk.

Difficulty Moving

Problems with walking, balance and coordination comprise another group of multiple sclerosis symptoms. Muscle weakness, tight or "spastic" muscles, and poor balance make it difficult for MS patients to move normally. Medications, physical therapy and stretching exercises can help combat these symptoms of MS.

Vision Problems

Inflammation of the optic nerve or disruption of the nerve signals related to vision can cause a range of vision problems in an MS patient, including uncontrolled eye movement, double vision, blindness in one eye, pain during eye movement or blurry vision. Anyone experiencing these or any other symptoms of MS should see a physician for correct diagnosis and treatment.

Bladder Issues

Many MS patients also suffer from bladder-related symptoms of MS, such as frequent or urgent urination or incontinence. Changes in diet and fluid intake, as well as certain medications, can help alleviate these symptoms. Bowel problems like constipation or diarrhea are also fairly common, and these too can be treated with dietary changes (for example, drinking enough water and a eating a high-fiber diet) and medications.

Chronic Pain

About half of all MS sufferers experience chronic pain, which is often described as aching, burning or muscle cramps. The pain can be felt in the face, back or other parts of the body. To relieve these symptoms of MS, doctors may prescribe medications, exercise, massage, physical therapy or alternative treatments such as yoga or acupuncture.

Other Symptoms of MS

Dizziness, lightheadedness and even vertigo (a feeling that one is spinning) are uncomfortable symptoms of MS that often respond to over-the-counter and prescription medications. There are many other symptoms of MS, including sexual problems, memory loss, inability to concentrate, muscle stiffness, muscle spasms, slurred speech, tremors and depression. If you have any of these symptoms, it's critical that you see your doctor as soon as possible for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

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