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Complications Of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable disease that affects the central nervous system. It disturbs the flow of impulses from the brain and spinal cord to the body. It is a progressive disease that may lead to disabilities. It is caused by an abnormal immune system that damages nerve fibers. It can eventually cause permanent damage to the nerve and disability. It can lead to muscle weakness, loss of mobility and cognitive problems. It cannot be cured but its symptoms can be managed. In a span of years, it can complicate into various problems discussed below.

Complications Of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis or MS is a chronic neurological disease characterized by damage to the protective layer of the nerve fibers (myelin sheath). It affects nerves of the brain, spinal cord or any nerve of the body. It can be mild to disabling in its manifestation. It is an autoimmune disease that attacks its own myelin sheath of the nerve tissue. It is assumed that viral infection may trigger such attacks. It develops in the people of the age of 20- 40 years.

Visual Disturbances– vision problems are initial symptoms of multiple sclerosis. As the disease progresses, the vision changes occurred may become permanent. Its symptoms include double vision, blurred vision, and vision loss or nystagmus (uncontrolled eye movements).

Bowel And Urinary Problems- multiple sclerosis cause a significant impact on the travel of impulses from the brain to urinary tract and bowel. It may affect the movement of bowel and excretion of the wastes from the digestive system. It also impairs the flow of signal to the urinary tract and affects the excretion of the waste through the urinary system. Its symptoms include constipation, incontinence, and diarrhea.

Corticosteroid-Related Problems- corticosteroid prescribed to manage multiple sclerosis has adverse effects on the body and may cause complications. Short term use of corticosteroids can cause high blood pressure, weight gain, fluid retention, pressure on the eyes and mood alterations. Long term use of corticosteroids may impose problems like infections, blood sugar, bruises, cataracts, weak bones and fractures and dysfunction of the adrenal gland.

Mental Health-Related Problems- multiple sclerosis may deteriorate mental health as it progresses. It may cause depression and bipolar affective disorder. It is caused due to changes in the brain tissues that can result in emotional changes in the patient. The patient may feel isolated and has to combat career, economic and social challenges.

Cognitive Problems- nearly half of the people with multiple sclerosis may develop cognitive problems such as slow intellectual responses, memory loss. It may lead to a reduction in abilities of the person to solve a problem, reason an abstract or take the right decision. It occurs due to lesions or atrophy developed in the brain due to MS. However, this cognitive impairment does not cause significant disruption of the daily life of the patient.

Muscular Problems- multiple sclerosis affects the flow impulses to the muscles that may cause stiffness and spasms in the muscles.

Sensory Problems- MS causes numbness and some abnormal sensations in the affected areas. It may cause pain, burning or feeling of tightness. It may also result in multiple sclerosis hug which is a sensation of tightness in the chest leading to breathing problems.

Venous Thromboembolism- venous thromboembolism may occur due to multiple sclerosis. It happens due to traveling of blood clot into the blood vessel. It may result in disability, muscular spasms, and lack of mobility.

All these complications can be prevented by regular monitoring of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and maintain a healthy lifestyle which includes a healthy diet and regular exercises.


Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the covering of the nerves. It initially affects optic nerves. It is caused due to demyelination of nerve fibers that may result in irreversible damage to the myelin sheath. It can cause complications like vision problems, bladder, bowel problems, etc. in a few years as discussed above.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 1, 2019

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