Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurodegenerative disease affecting the spinal cord and brain. MS causes the immune system to attack the myelin–the protective cover that shields nerve fibers. This attack can prevent your brain from communicating effectively with the rest of your body. In time, MS can permanently damage the nerves, resulting in disability. There is currently no cure for MS, but treatments are available to help manage the disease and decrease symptoms. Here we talk about the early warning signs of MS.
Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis: CIS
MS can be a difficult condition to diagnose early. One reason is that the symptoms present differently from person to person. The first episode most people experience is referred to as a clinically isolated syndrome (CIS).
A CIS typically lasts only 24 hours and occurs when the immune system tells the body to attack myelin. The process is also referred to as demyelination. CIS may cause scarring or leave lesions that make it even more difficult for the brain and body to communicate.
The most common symptoms of CIS include optic neuritis (blurry vision, a dulling of colors, and eye pain) and numbness or tingling in the legs. Those affected may experience only one symptom, known as a monofocal episode, or multiple symptoms, known as a multifocal episode.
CIS is a precursor to MS, but not everyone who experiences a CIS will contract multiple sclerosis. However, if you suspect you’ve had a CIS, it is important to review this information with your specialist.
Primary MS Symptoms
Once the myelin is damaged, a host of other symptoms may occur. Early in the disease, symptoms may be mild and controlled through medication and other therapies.
Early symptoms include the following:
- Bladder and bowel problems (frequent urination, constipation)
- Loss of coordination
- Emotional changes, fear, and anxiety
- Eye problems
- Muscle spasms
- Sexual dysfunction (Loss of libido, vaginal dryness, erectile problems)
- Cognitive problems
- Difficulty speaking
- Gait and balance problems (trouble walking)
Primary symptoms can lead to secondary and tertiary symptoms, such as getting a bladder infection because you can’t empty your bladder completely or injure yourself from losing balance.
When to Seek Help – If you suspect you’ve experienced a CIS and are exhibiting early warning signs of MS, seek expert medical advice as soon as possible. Both traditional and cutting-edge therapies are most effective when started early. Regenerative medicine, also referred to as stem cell therapy, may have potential as an alternative therapy that improves symptoms without heavy medication.