If you think you’ve MS first, you need to actually confirm you have it by getting a proper diagnosis done by your doctor through a series of tests. For someone with MS, the signs and symptoms appear gradually, and you can notice the warning signs from the start. You should only trust your close ones whom you think can offer you the right kind of support you need right now. With the help of a proper diagnosis and your close ones, you can keep MS at bay and still be able to live a good life.
Over 2.3 million around the world are living with multiple sclerosis. So, when you’re the one actually living with MS, most people don’t believe you’re, because from the outside, sometimes you can’t even tell a person has MS.
There are many misconceptions attached, such as only people with MS are old, disabled, and end up being in a wheelchair.
Some of the symptoms are visible, while others may not be that obvious. They may flare up every now and then. For example, a person with MS might feel and look normal one minute but might suffer from extreme fatigue after 5 minutes.
First, let’s look at the parameters and early signs to deduce if you might be suffering from MS and when you need to see a doctor. Then, how to make your friends and family understand you’re suffering from MS.
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is a condition wherein your immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers nerve fibers and causes communication problems between your brain and the rest of your body.
In simple words, the system designed to keep your body healthy mistakenly attacks parts of your body vital to everyday function.
MS causes inflammation and temporary lesions and is a potentially disabling disease of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). Eventually, this condition can cause permanent damage or deterioration of the nerves.
There’s no cure for MS yet. But it’s possible to manage its symptoms as they have a wide range depending from person to person.
Symptoms of MS
As I mentioned, symptoms of MS are wide-ranging and depend on person to person. Its severity also changes from season to season or month to month, even day-to-day.
It’s an unpredictable disease with varying intensity, and some of the common symptoms include:
- Difficulty in walking
- Vision problems
- Speech issues
- Acute or chronic pain
- Cognitive issues involving concentration, memory, and word-finding
- Sleep issues
- Difficulty in chewing or swallowing
- Problems with bladder control
Diagnosing MS and early signs
If you’re unsure whether you’ve MS or not, this section is vital for assessing your current situation and visiting your doctor for an actual confirmation.
In the beginning, it starts with small things that you might leave unnoticed, but warning signs are always present.
- Vision issues – You might not notice it first, but your vision slowly starts getting worse. If you look at one side, putting strain, then you might have vision loss too.
- Tingling and numbness – As your nervous system is attacked, conflicting signals can be sent to the brain. Sometimes no signals at all; that is experiencing numbness. Your face, arms, legs, and fingers might experience tingling or numbness, which is a number one warning sign.
- Pain and spasms – According to studies, half of the people with MS had chronic pain. You might start experiencing stiff muscles or joints. Might also have uncontrollable, painful jerking movements of the extremities. Your legs might start showing signs, and you might also have back pain.
- Fatigue and weakness – It appears suddenly and lasts for weeks before improving.
- Balance problems and dizziness – Feeling light-headed, dizzy, or spinning of surroundings. Especially when you stand up.
- Bladder and bowel dysfunction – Starts with frequent urination, strong urges to urinate, or inability to hold in urine. Might start experiencing constipation, diarrhea, or loss of bowel control.
- Sexual dysfunction – If you start experiencing problems in sexual arousal, it is because MS attacks the central nervous system.
- Changes in emotions – People with MS majorly suffer from depression. On top of that, having MS can affect your mood to a very large extent from having mood swings to a pseudobulbar affect. It’s when you start crying or laughing uncontrollably.
Other issues you might start noticing:
- Cognitive problems
- Hearing loss
- Uncontrollable shaking
- Breathing problems
- Slurred speeches
- Trouble swallowing
If you think you’ve MS, then visit your doctor immediately because the sooner it’s identified, the sooner you can start handling the symptoms to stop the condition from getting worse.
Your doctor will perform several tests like:
- Neurological exam
- Eye exam
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Spinal tap (Lumbar puncture)
These tests are performed to see if there is damage present to the central nervous system. If so, how much damage has already been done to separate areas? There’s no one test present for MS that lets you confirm you’ve MS. If a series of tests are positive, your doctor confirms your diagnosis.
There are also chances that you might go to your doctor thinking you’ve MS, but it often turns out to be another problem. It’s because there are so many conditions similar to MS, and they have common symptoms.
Various combinations of symptoms mentioned above can be present in other disorders. This is why you must get your diagnosis done correctly and have your friends and family’s support to keep you mentally strong while going forward.
Friends and family support
Talking about MS, it’s essential to know that people with MS experience a gradual onset and steady progression of signs and symptoms. The early warning signs are always present in front of you. So, it all comes down to how responsive you’re to your body and what kind of mindset you possess to keep this condition in check.
Mental stability, which partly comes from your friends and family’s support, is vital in these times. If you experience the warning signs, then discussing things with your close ones is the first step you should take towards getting better.
Getting the right kind of support is crucial at a time like this. With motivation from them, you should visit your doctor and get all the necessary tests done.
Remember, if people around you don’t believe in you, you don’t need that kind of negativity. Keeping people who believe and support you is good for your mental health.
There might be a chance that you don’t actually have MS. This is why getting a proper diagnosis is essential to confirm your current condition.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can you have a clear MRI and still have MS?
Sometimes, MS can still be present with a straightforward MRI and spinal fluid test. The MRI of the brain might be expected, but the MRI of the spinal cord might be abnormal and consistent with MS. So, it needs to be carefully analyzed by your doctor through a series of tests.
Can I be mistaken for MS?
MS can’t be detected with just one test; therefore, a series of tests are done, which when it comes as positive, you’re diagnosed with MS.
Getting the correct diagnosis is a challenge and all the difference it makes if you have MS or not. Nearly 1 in 5 people are incorrectly diagnosed with MS.
What are the four stages of MS?
1. Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)
2. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)
3. Secondary-progressive MS (SPMS)
4. Primary-progressive MS (PPMS)
Can you have MS for years and not know it?
Benign MS can’t be identified at the time of the initial diagnosis. It can even take as long as 15 years to diagnose.
Having the correct diagnosis is very vital to keep the symptoms under control. Even when diagnosed, there’s no guarantee that it can’t progress into a more severe form of MS.
How do you know if your MS is progressing?
Doctors use a scale called the Expanded Disability Status Scale (EDSS) to measure physical disability. It’s used to figure out if your condition is progressing. 2/3 of those with MS will not move past level 6 on the EDSS.
People with MS can find ways to manage their symptoms and function well by following medications, keeping a healthy diet, regular exercises, and following on other complementary therapies. Getting yourself the right kind of diagnosis is essential to keep this condition at bay.
Try to involve only those close to you whom you know you can trust and support you. You should always have your go-to person in family or friends with whom you can share anything and everything. Talking about the issues you’re facing can significantly help you relieve stress and give you mental peace.
Symptoms of MS vary from person to person. But, even though it can’t be cured, you can very well try to minimize its symptoms and live your life to its best. So, chin up because I believe you can do it!