MS (Multiple Sclerosis) is a chronic disease that causes long-term disability amongst the adults. This disease is twice as common in females as it is amongst males. In MS the major organs affected are brain, optic nerves that supply the eyes and also the spinal cord. Due to this the major functions that are affected are muscle controlling ability, balancing, vision, etc. and because of this the daily routine tasks of the patient are majorly hampered.
Some people might have the disease but the symptoms are very minor that they do not need any treatment while on the other hand some people might have severe symptoms and need special medical attention.
What Are The Very First Signs Of MS?
Not necessarily all the patients experience the same symptoms but the below are the commonest and earliest symptoms. The severity of disease decides the occurrence and intensity of symptoms.
Balancing Problems. The gait of the patient changes and it is often accompanied with dizziness, lightheadedness and also vertigo.
Problems Of Vision. Vision problems are the commonest when you have MS. It occurs due to optic neuritis that is inflammation of the optic nerve. The symptoms are blurring of vision, diplopia (double vision) and loss of vision in severe cases.
Tingling And Numbness. Due to damage to the spinal cord and brain, there is improper working of the neural pathways that send signals all over the body. This leads to numbness and tingling sensations. These sensations are mostly felt at sites including legs, arms, fingers and face.
Problems In Cognitive Abilities. The symptoms are memory loss, language problems, difficulty staying alert, attention deficit, etc. It may also be accompanied with depression.
Muscle Pains And Spasms. There might be spasm or stiffness of muscles. Joint pains are also common. The pain is more commonly seen in the legs and back.
Fatigue. Due to involvement of the spinal cord, the patient experiences weakness and fatigue. It lasts for a long time almost weeks. The signs of weakness are first noticed in the legs.
Problems With Bowel And Bladder Functions. The symptoms of bladder dysfunction are urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine), increased frequency of urination, etc. Bowel involvement presents as diarrhea or constipation and even as loss of bowel control.
Loss Of Emotional Stability. Due to involvement of brain, the patient experiences mood swings, irritability, etc. Depression may get worse.
Sexual Dysfunction. Problems with sexual arousal are common.
Investigations Done To Diagnose MS
There is no one single test that can tell us if the patient is suffering from MS. Multiple tests are to be done and then correlated with the clinical symptoms to confirm the diagnosis. The investigations mainly focus on ruling out other possible causes rather than confirming MS. Following investigations are done.
MRI. For imaging the lesions in brain and spinal cord, MRI is the best option. On the basis of nature of the lesion, other diseases can be ruled out. MRI can show other sites of involvement of the brain and spinal cord in MS.
CSF (Cerebrospinal Fluid) Examination. CSF examination helps to know the inflammatory extent of the disease. Tests done are CSF cell count and protein electrophoresis. In case of MS it shows higher levels of specific proteins in CSF. Other causes like infection or other diseases can also be ruled out with the help of CSF study.
X-Ray. X-ray is done to look for other areas of lesion involvement.
Visual Evoked Potential Tests. In this test, the electrical activity in your brain after visual stimulation is measured. If altered it means that optic nerve is involved.
Serum ACE (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme). This test helps to rule out sarcoidosis.
These are some of the tests that can support the diagnosis and bring you to a conclusion.
There are many signs that are seen in MS depending on the areas where lesion is present. Many people who have mild MS might not even show signs. The earliest signs are visual impairment, pain, numbness, tingling sensations, weakness in body, fatigue, problems with balancing body, dizziness, vertigo, etc. However presence of these symptoms does not confirm the diagnosis so other supportive investigations are necessarily done.
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