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The Usual First Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

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  • 16-11-2021
The Usual First Signs of Multiple Sclerosis

What are usually the first signs of multiple sclerosis? If you are concerned that someone you know is developing MS, you will want to be aware of what symptoms to look out for.

Explaining and understanding what Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is can be difficult, but noticing the signs and understanding what it can mean for you or your family's future is crucial. 

More than 130,000 people have MS across the UK, and you're more likely to discover you have it from your thirties, forties, and onwards. However, you can notice signs much earlier. Affecting three times as many women as men, there is a severe need to understand this condition better.

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a brain and spinal cord condition, which can have a wide range of symptoms and manifestations in patients. Due to its unpredictability and how it will affect the central nervous system in a given person, it can be hard to treat in severe cases. 

There's still a lot of uncertainty around MS, as it has environmental and genetic causes. About 10-15% of those diagnosed have primary progressive MS, which will worsen over time. This is why it's important to spot early on and hopefully prevent symptoms from worsening.  

There is also Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS), which develops from relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS). It's difficult and near impossible to decipher who will develop into SPMS, but it's not every case.   

The Four Stages of Multiple Sclerosis

What Are Usually The First Signs Of MS?

How is MS caused?

There's no clear-cut answer or cause to MS, and it's not entirely hereditary. However, if you are related to someone who has the condition, you should inquire with a doctor or GP if you believe you're noticing symptoms. 

A lack of sunlight and, therefore, Vitamin D can also cause MS. Smoking, viral infections, and teenage obesity are also common causes. Still, these aren't guaranteed that an adult will later suffer from MS. 

The diagnosis rate for women is higher than men, but the treatments are advancing, and many sufferers find a way to live with the condition.

Early signs of MS

To recognise Multiple Sclerosis earlier rather than later, it's good to understand what signs to look out for. As your body begins to wrongly attack myelin within your nervous system, a few things will start to happen to you and the way you perceive the world.

Although every MS sufferer experiences different symptoms at different points, there can be patterns.

Most commonly, an early sign of MS is a vision/sight problem. Optic Neuritis is the full name and is inflammation of the optic nerve. This can affect both eyes but more commonly just the one, and can cause aches, pains, blurred vision, or colour vision in severe cases.

Sufferers can also experience eye movement problems such as twitching, tingling, or numbness. All of this isn't to say that someone who experiences these symptoms has early multiple sclerosis, but these are common among the community.

Some other early MS symptoms could include:

Early signs of multiple sclerosis

Weakness and Fatigue

Tingling and Numbness

Pains and Spasms


Bladder Issues

If a loved one or yourself notice symptoms, then there's no need to panic as it could be a sign of another condition. It's wise to get a check-up and receive official diagnosing before you begin to prepare for MS.

Common Symptoms of Multiple sclerosis

There are typically common symptoms of MS among sufferers, especially after diagnosis. Everyone who has this condition does experience different symptoms, with some being worse than others, and others have noticed some aspects fading completely. 

Whether you have relapsing or progressive multiple sclerosis, you can find more severe and intense symptoms or less frequent and easier to handle. 

According to NHS, here are some common symptoms:


Many with MS find themselves using more energy and becoming more exhausted when completing the easiest of tasks, which is extremely common. It's normal to experience this, but the annoyance of being unable to complete small tasks is understandable, especially at the end of a day or in warmer temperatures.

Vision & perception difficulties

Experiencing some form of vision loss or eye pain is another common symptom. Almost 1 in 4 people with MS experience optic neuritis or other vision problems. This can affect both eyes and lead to double vision, flashes of light, and sometimes colour blindness. However, it's more common for one eye to be affected. 


There are typically two forms of pain that are experienced when suffering from MS. 

The neuropathic pain that MS causes can manifest in facial pain (akin to stabbing pain) and burning, squeezing, and pins and needles across the body and limbs. 

Musculoskeletal pain is more inherently caused by the loss of movement that MS brings about. Patients can experience neck, joint, and back pain, especially as walking becomes harder. 

Common Symptoms of Multiple sclerosis

Numbness & Tingling

MS can cause strange feelings and sensations throughout the body, especially the limbs. Arms and legs are mainly affected and can experience numbness or some tingling and can last a few days in some cases.

Mobility loss

As the muscles and body begin to prove harder to move, it can make you feel weak and lead to mobility difficulty. Sometimes vertigo and dizziness can happen, and general clumsiness and balance difficulties are also common. 

Muscle spasms

Another symptom of MS is muscle pain. The muscles throughout your body (although again more typically in the limbs such as arms and legs) can experience painful spasms and episodes of stiffness. 

You can experience muscle weakness after little exertion, and the contractions can become resistant to movement and painful to the point where you're unable to move. 

Depression & anxiety

Although there's uncertainty as to whether multiple sclerosis directly causes anxiety and depression or if it's due to the realisation of having to live with this life-changing condition, there are patterns of those with MS suffering from mental health. 

Speech & swallowing difficulties

There are cases of MS where chewing, swallowing, or speaking issues have been noted. This can be dysphagia or dysarthria but typically only appears in more severe cases.

Cognitive dysfunction

Some people with MS experience problems with learning, thinking, and planning, especially compared to before they were diagnosed.

This can typically affect the short-term memory more than long-term, making learning and remembering new things and information much harder. 

The same goes for processing information and perhaps multitasking, as people with MS can find themselves with a short attention span and getting distracted easily.

Although it's not guaranteed that this will happen, some form of cognitive ability loss could occur. However, mental health conditions can also produce these symptoms of memory loss and difficulty planning, such as anxiety and depression, or even some medications. 

people with MS experience problems with learning, thinking, and planning

Sexual problems

The sexual function of your body can also be affected by MS. 

Men (or those with penises) can find difficulty maintaining or getting an erection. This is commonly known as erectile dysfunction. It's also common for MS sufferers to experience difficulty ejaculating while having sex, and sometimes this can be lost entirely. 

Women (or those with vulvas) can also find difficulty reaching orgasm and a noticeable decrease in vaginal lubrication and sensation.

It's noted that the majority of sufferers (men and women and others) generally find themselves less sexually active and desiring sex less often. 

Bladder problems

You can also find yourself struggling with bladder problems, and this is normal for those with MS. This problem goes both ways, with some experiencing issues with emptying the bladder and others urinating more frequently.

Some sufferers can also experience urinary tract infections (UTIs), especially recurring. These can be more severe, with blood in your pee or lower back pain or a more frequent desire to pee. 

Bowel problems

Bowel function can also be a problem for people with MS, suffering from constipation or bowel incontinence. This can cause embarrassment and difficulty in passing stool and cause irritation and pain. 

These symptoms aren't exclusive to MS and can be experienced by people with many different conditions. Sometimes conditions can be caused by medications, and they can appear to fade once that specific medication has stopped. 

When to see a doctor

There can be cause for concern if you're suffering from one or more of these conditions, and you're wise for wanting to seek help on getting diagnosed. 

However, it would be best to document any and every symptom you're experiencing so you don't get misdiagnosed. An MS diagnosis sets patients on a particular course with particular medication. 

If caught earlier on, it is possible to seek treatment that will manage and slow the progression, leading to an easier time without symptoms and hopefully easier to manage symptoms. 

multiple sclerosis: When to see a doctor

Be sure to contact a health professional for a consultation if you're concerned about your health or someone you know. There are groups and foundations that are focused on connecting those with the condition and researching MS, such as The National Multiple Sclerosis Society

If you have questions about the signs of Multiple Sclerosis, we hope this information has been useful to you.

We offer specialist home care services and live-in care for vulnerable adults throughout London. Get in contact today if you have a loved one that would benefit from professional multiple sclerosis care at home.