MS Symptoms: All that You Want to Know

The brain and spinal cord are mainly affected by the chronic autoimmune disease known as multiple sclerosis (MS), which affects a person's central nervous system. A wide range/variety of symptoms that differ from person to person and change over time can be brought on by MS. The impact of symptoms on a person's everyday life might also vary from moderate to severe. Fatigue, numbness, balance issues, and other symptoms are typical MS symptoms.

Types of MS and Their Symptoms

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)

Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of MS, comprising up to 85% of all cases. It is characterized by periods of sudden and unpredictable illnesses or "relapses" followed by symptom-free periods, known as remission. During relapses, people may experience various symptoms, such as impaired vision, limb weakness, tingling, and fatigue. However, these symptoms lessen during remissions and may even disappear completely. RRMS often progresses with continued relapses and remissions that are longer than usual or less severe in intensity. However, medication can help slow the progression of RRMS and improve patients' overall quality of life.

Primary-progressive MS

Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) is a type of MS that affects approximately 10-15 per cent of those affected by the disease. It is characterized by slowly progressive neurological symptoms, such as impaired coordination and balance, physical weakness, sensory changes in the limbs, difficulty with urinary control and vision problems. Unlike other forms of MS, primary-progressive MS does not involve relapses or periods of remission but rather continues to worsen as time goes on. Progression can vary from person to person and may worsen quickly at certain points. Unfortunately, there is no cure for primary-progressive MS. However, and several treatments are available to help slow the progression of the disease and increase symptom management. Despite this, it remains uncertain what will happen to someone with the condition in the long term.

Secondary-progressive MS

Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS) is a form of Multiple Sclerosis (MS). It follows an initial, relapsing-remitting stage of the condition and can start at any point after diagnosis. SPMS involves the gradual progression of disability and periodic relapses in which old symptoms resurface or new ones appear. Symptoms vary depending on the areas of the brain, and spinal cord affected but generally include a decline in mobility and overall physical abilities and vision, bladder or bowel control difficulties. In SPMS, there is also evidence of cortical lesions, which indicates cognitive decline. While there is no cure yet, treatment strategies aim to reduce the impact on the patient's life by slowing disease progression with medications to regulate nerve function and through lifestyle changes such as increasing activity levels and to engage in regular exercise.

In addition, in people with secondary-progressive MS, a stage of MS that comes after RRMS, the pattern of symptoms worsening under relapses and becoming less severe during remissions eventually changes to a continuous development of symptoms, generally with few or no relapses.

Stress, fever, hot baths, sun exposure, and overheating can all cause or temporarily aggravate MS symptoms. The symptoms typically disappear when the body starts to calm down again or when stress is reduced.

Understanding MS Symptoms

Below are some of the MS symptoms explained −

  • Fatigue − MS-related fatigue, frequently described as a loss of energy not relieved by rest, can be crippling. A person's capacity to focus, work, or participate in daily activities may be compromised here. The term "lassitude" denotes severe MS-related fatigue. Although there is no proven treatment for MS-related fatigue, frequent exercise, taking breaks during the day, and following a regular sleep pattern are some management techniques that may assist.

  • Numbness and tingling − Damage to the nerves that control sensation may be the cause of numbness and tingling associated with MS. These symptoms may be unpleasant and impair a person's ability to go about their regular lives. Physical therapy and drugs such as anticonvulsants or antidepressants may be used to treat numbness and tingling.

  • MS-related balance issues might make walking, standing, or engaging in other balance-required tasks challenging. Physical therapy or aids like canes or walkers are two possible treatments for balance issues.

  • Muscle weakness − Damage to the neurons that regulate muscle action can lead to MS-related muscular weakness. Physical therapy, drugs like muscle relaxants, and supportive devices like braces or orthotics are all possible treatments for muscle weakness.

  • Blurred vision, double vision, and loss of vision in one or both eyes are just a few examples of vision issues that MS. Medications like steroids can cause, and vision therapy are both potential treatments for visual issues.

  • Cognitive changes − MS-related cognitive changes can include memory, concentration, and problem-solving difficulties. Treatment options for cognitive changes may include cognitive rehabilitation therapy or medications such as cholinesterase inhibitors.

  • Bowel and bladder issues − MS-related bowel and bladder issues might include diarrhoea, constipation, and urine incontinence. Medication, behavioural therapy, and dietary modifications may all be used as treatments for bladder and bowel issues.

  • Pain − People with MS frequently experience pain, including headaches, muscle pain, and chronic back or other musculoskeletal pain. While some MS-related pain can become chronic, others can last only a short while. Neuropathic pain, the pain brought on by spasticity, the pain brought on by immobility, and pain connected to exhaustion tend to become chronic and require ongoing management.

Other Common MS Symptoms

  • Constipation and bowel incontinence

  • Cognitive problems that impair judgment, concentration, attention, memory, and problem-solving

  • Restless legs syndrome

  • Trouble regulating the bladder or a strong urge to urinate

  • Trouble walking as a result of exhaustion, muscle weakness, stiffness, loss of balance, and sensory deficiencies.

  • Vertigo

  • Clinical depression

  • Emotional changes like mood swings, impatience, uncontrollable sobbing and laughter

  • Sexual issues including erectile dysfunction, dry vagina, and the inability to climax (called pseudobulbar affect)

Other Less Common Symptoms of MS Include

  • The trouble with fine motor control

  • Trouble with fine motor control

  • Uncontrollable shaking or tremor

  • Paralysis

  • Respiratory issues 

  • Slurred speech, and the inability to generate voice sounds (dysphonia)

  • Issues with chewing and swallowing

  • Issues with chewing and swallowing 

  • Headaches, especially those associated with migraines

  • Psychosis

How to Manage MS Symptoms?

Some of the methods MS sufferers use to minimize or, at the very least, manage their symptoms include −

  • Getting sound sleep by addressing any symptoms that are interrupting sleep

  • Pacing themselves and taking planned breaks

  • Exercise to maintain muscle strength and flexibility

  • Learning energy-saving techniques

  • Avoiding overheat exposure

  • Getting help for depression to avoid fatigue

  • Taking a drug that promotes wakefulness.


Although MS can be a difficult diagnosis to receive and living with the symptoms can be challenging, it is important not to give up hope. It is possible to manage the condition with lifestyle changes like eating a well-balanced diet, and using assistive devices when needed. Additionally, there are several treatments available to help reduce the severity of your symptoms and live a more active lifestyle. Finally, make sure you are keeping in touch with your doctor frequently and discussing new treatments or alternative options throughout your journey. With support from your healthcare team, MS doesn't have to control your life; adaptability, resilience, and comfort don't have to be expensive words - they can be part of everyday living.