Multiple sclerosis is a complex and heterogeneous autoimmune disease. It affects the central nervous system, which includes the brain and spinal cord. Some scientists call it the disease with a thousand faces. Here, we’ll look at some of the early signs of multiple sclerosis.
Approximately 2.5 million people suffer from this disease around the world. Although the cause is unknown, researchers believe that there’s an important genetic component. In addition, it affects more women than men, especially those between the ages of 20 and 40.
The truth is that the symptoms of this disease vary according to the severity and location of the nerve injury. Therefore, in this article, we’ll explain the most common early symptoms of multiple sclerosis and its other main characteristics.
Why does multiple sclerosis occur?
As we’ve already mentioned, multiple sclerosis is a chronic and degenerative disease. What happens is that the immune system gets out of control and begins to attack the tissues in the central nervous system. Specifically, it hurts a substance called myelin.
Myelin is a substance that covers nerve fibers and helps transmit nerve impulses. When the immune system attacks and impairs it, the nerves can transmit these impulses.
This way, it can affect all sensations and motor functions, depending on which nerve is injured. Multiple sclerosis develops in flare-ups that happen recurrently. In other words, there are periods with symptoms and others where the disease partially remits.
Although the cause of this disease is indeed unknown, we know certain risk factors for developing it. For example, women are almost three times more at risk of suffering from it. The same is true if there’s a family history.
What are the early signs of multiple sclerosis?
The truth is that the symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary greatly from one person to another. In fact, the same patient can have different symptoms over the years, depending on where the lesion is. First, we’ll mention some of the early signs of multiple sclerosis:
- At the beginning of this disease, there are vision problems. It progressively affects vision, starting with blurred or double vision that can end with total loss of sight.
- Fatigue and weakness are also very common, especially in the extremities or on one side of the body. This happens in approximately 80% of people with multiple sclerosis.
- In addition, it usually comes with a sensation of numbness in areas like fingers, face, or legs. In some people, Lhermitte’s sign occurs. Doctors refer to this as an electric sensation moving down your neck.
Early signs of multiple sclerosis: What other functions are affected?
In many cases, multiple sclerosis causes balance problems and a lack of coordination. For example, it can affect the way you walk. In the same way, it can affect your sexual function, as well as issues when urinating or defecating.
Finally, keep in mind that it’s a complex disease that can cause many emotional problems. Also, it can affect memory, attention span, and even language.
How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific test to diagnose this disease. To do this, it’s important to pay attention to all symptoms and rule out other causes.
Normally, detection occurs with a blood test or a spinal tap. A spinal tap removes fluid from the spinal column to check if there’s anything wrong. In addition, it lets doctors rule out infections and other diseases.
An MRI reveals the site of the lesions caused by multiple sclerosis. In any case, we need to remember that, if you have any of the early signs of multiple sclerosis, you need to see a doctor to get a diagnosis.