MS in Women: Common Symptoms?

There is a wide range of symptoms and signs in MS, and they can be mild, moderate, or severe. Symptoms usually appear slowly and may come and go at first, but as the disease progresses, most symptoms become more constant.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

Multiple sclerosis has no cure as such. Treatment is focused on managing the symptoms that occur as a result of this condition.

The following therapies are used to manage MS:

Medications for multiple sclerosis: Medications often work by decreasing inflammation and limiting the immune system’s ability to cause further damage. Medication options include: Corticosteroids taken orally or injection Immunomodulators taken orally (interferon beta) or through injection (mitoxantrone) Disease-modifying agents taken orally (beta interferon)

Though there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, many people with MS lead full and rewarding lives. With proper care and treatment, between 70% to 80% of people living with MS can fully control their symptoms through a combination of therapies.

More than 2.3 million people worldwide are affected by MS. Two hundred thousand new cases occur each year globally. In 2010, an estimated 17,800 people were diagnosed in the U.S., adding up to about 400 diagnoses every day.* The disease primarily affects women during childbearing years — about three times as many women as men are diagnosed with it. (1) And while the onset of MS can happen at any age, the average age of diagnosis is 39.

“Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic inflammatory disease of the central nervous system.” “The hallmark pathological features of MS are focal lesions disseminated in time and space…”

“Diagnosis is based on clinical symptoms combined with supporting paraclinical investigations such as MRI/magnetic resonance imaging.”

Formerly known as “disseminated encephalomyelitis,” multiple sclerosis has been recognized since at least the days of ancient Greece. In 1868 Jean-Martin Charcot provided a full description that led to our current understanding of the disease’s pathology and classification.

He was also able to make an accurate distinction between this disorder and other diseases with similar presentations. The disease was later named multiple sclerosis because the most common sites of pathology, or scars (sclerae), are found in multiple discrete locations in the brain and spinal cord.

The term “multiple sclerosis” refers to the scars (or lesions) that form throughout the white matter of the central nervous system, which is made up of myelin sheaths surrounding axons. As seen with the naked eye, these lesions appear as tiny yellow spots called plaques.

At first glance, these plaques may be confused for other diseases such as lupus; however, there are subtle differences when observed under a microscope: MS plaques contain macrophages called lymphocytes and plasma cells in addition to astrocytes and oligodendrocytes.

Multiple sclerosis has no known cause, but genetics seem to be involved to some degree (see article on multiple sclerosis). There are many theories as to what causes it; researchers believe that MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself by mistake.

One theory is that the immune system mistakes myelin for a foreign agent or pathogen and attacks it, causing inflammation and consequent damage to the nerve fibers (axons) of the central nervous system. This could happen because something goes wrong while these tiny messengers are trying to turn off the inflammatory response after fighting infection or repairing an injury.

Once this process malfunctions, perhaps due to a virus or mutation in one of the genes, T cells mistakenly attack healthy tissue when the body is attempting to heal. The body’s immune system starts to fight against itself, causing a range of problems in the brain and spinal cord that vary in severity depending on which areas are affected.

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis:

The “typical” symptoms of multiple sclerosis are the sudden development of weakness, numbness, or other sensory changes in one or more limbs. Visual problems, balance issues, and difficulties with bladder control also may indicate MS.

Here’s a list of common symptoms:

– Muscle weakness or clumsiness, sometimes affecting the face or an arm.

– Blurred vision that doesn’t go away. It may feel like you’re looking through fog. If one eye is affected, you might see double or have partial loss of sight. If both eyes are affected, you could lose all vision completely for a time. Over time, your vision can become blurry even when it’s clear. This is because the nerve fibers carrying visual information to the brain gradually are destroyed.

– Tingling, burning, or numbness in one or more limbs. This sensation can come and go or be constant. Sometimes it’s the only sign of MS, but sometimes it comes and goes along with other symptoms. If you have any of these sensations, ask your doctor if they could be caused by MS.

– Trouble walking due to loss of balance or coordination. Some people say their leg feels like it’s “made of wood” when they try to move it. Others may walk with an odd gait because one leg is weak, or stagger even when they’re not tired or impaired from alcohol use. These problems might affect one side of your body (one leg) at first, but both sides may be affected over time.

– Bladder and bowel problems. You might feel like you need to urinate often or that your bladder isn’t emptying all the way. Or you may have bowel problems — either diarrhea or constipation — or a mixed-up bowel routine (diarrhea followed by constipation, for example). These are common symptoms of MS.

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