Multiple sclerosis, or MS, is a disease that impacts the central nervous system and causes communication issues between your brain and the rest of your body.
There's no cure, but an early diagnosis can help doctors treat the disease better, and these are some early symptoms you should know about.
Nearly a million people in the U.S. are living with MS. It's an unpredictable disease that can be debilitating.
"That's why it is very important to emphasize early diagnosis, early access to specialized centers in which they will not only make the correct diagnosis but also offer patients a personalized, customized, a patient-centralized approach, because every patient is different," University of Florida associate professor of neurology Dr. Augusto Miravalle said.
One sign not to ignore: vision problems. Inflammation can affect your optic nerve and cause blurred vision, double vision or loss of vision.
Another common symptom is tingling or numbness. Pain is another red flag. Dizziness and balance problems are also common.
"The amount of disability in every patient is different, and those with that difference has to do with factors including the number of lesions in the brain, where lesions are located," Miravalle said.
About half of people with MS will develop some type of cognitive problem, such as memory trouble, language issues or difficulty paying attention.
Another common sign is a dysfunctional bladder. It occurs in up to 80% of patients with MS.
Getting an accurate diagnosis isn't always easy. One study found that nearly 75% of MS specialists had seen at least three patients over the past year who had been misdiagnosed.
Depression, irritability and mood swings can also be symptoms, and sexual dysfunction is another issue that may signal MS.
EVEN DOCTORS MISS EARLY SIGNS
BACKGROUND: Approximately 2.3 million people live with multiple sclerosis (MS) worldwide. MS is a potentially disabling disease of the central nervous system (CNS). It interrupts the flow of information between the brain and body. The disease is thought to be triggered in a genetically susceptible individual by a combination of one or more environmental factors. The immune system attacks tissues and cells within the CNS and causes damage to nerve connections resulting in neurological symptoms. Women are at least two to three times more likely than men to develop MS. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, although an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 children under the age of 18 also live with MS, and people as old as 75 have developed it. (Source: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/nationalmssociety/media/msnationalfiles/brochures/brochure-justthe-facts.pdf)
SYMPTOMS AND DIAGNOSIS: Signs and symptoms may differ from person to person depending on the location of affected nerve fibers. Symptoms that can affect movement are numbness or weakness in one or more limbs that typically occurs on one side of your body at a time, or the legs and trunk; electric shock sensations that occur with certain neck movements, especially bending the neck forward; and tremor, lack of coordination or unsteady gait. Vision problems can be common such as partial or complete loss of vision; prolonged double vision; and blurry vision. Other common MS symptoms include slurred speech; fatigue; dizziness; tingling or pain in parts of your body; and problems with sexual, bowel and bladder function. A diagnosis of MS often relies on ruling out other conditions that might produce similar signs and symptoms. These could be blood tests, spinal tap, MRI, or evoked potential tests, which record the electrical signals produced by your nervous system in response to stimuli. With most people with relapsing-remitting MS, the diagnosis is straightforward and based on a pattern of symptoms consistent with the disease and confirmed by an MRI. (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases conditions/multiple-sclerosis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20350274)
NEW ORAL DRUG FOR MS: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Mayzent tablets to treat adults with relapsing forms of MS. Billy Dunn, MD, director of the Division of Neurology Products in the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said, "We are committed to continuing to work with companies that are developing additional treatment options for patients with multiple sclerosis." The effectiveness of Mayzent was shown in a clinical trial of 1,651 patients that compared Mayzent to a placebo in patients with SPMS who had evidence of disability progression in the prior two years and no relapses in the three months prior to enrollment. The fraction of patients with confirmed progression of disability was significantly lower in the Mayzent group than in the placebo group. Mayzent also decreased the number of relapses experienced by these patients. The most common adverse reactions reported by patients in the clinical trials included headache, high blood pressure and liver function test increases. (Source: https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-approves-new-oral-drug-treat-multiplesclerosis)