Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that most people have heard of at one time or another. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it is estimated that over 2.3 million people around the world have MS. Several celebrities, such as comedian Richard Pryor and actress Annette Funicello famously battled the disease, while others such as Jack Osbourne, son of rock legend Ozzy Osbourne, and talk show host Montel Williams, are living with MS and have made great strides to raise awareness.
Yet, even with all of the exposure, many people may not know, or simply miss, the early signs of multiple sclerosis. With that in mind, here are ten multiple sclerosis signs you should be on the look out for in your older loved one.
The damage from multiple sclerosis is due to the degrading of the myelin coating that covers nerve fibers in the central nervous system. This damage interferes with nerve signals coming from the nerve fibers reaching the spinal cord, brain and other parts of the body.
While no two cases of multiple sclerosis are the same, and symptoms can be different depending on the person, the following list are ten of the more common symptoms you should be aware of to detect the disease as early as possible.
Multiple Sclerosis Early Warning Signs
- Fatigue – Up to 80% of people with multiple sclerosis will find that fatigue inhibits their ability to perform at work or home. This is also the most prominent symptom for those who have few activity limitations.
- Numbness – One of the first signs of multiple sclerosis is numbness or tingling in the body, face, or arms and legs. For those diagnosed with the disease, this is often the very first symptom they have.
- Difficulty Walking – This can be due to lack of balance, weakness in the leg muscles, or even fatigue. This is one symptom that can be helped with physical therapy.
- Vision Issues – Blurred vision can be one of the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis. This can come with pain during eye movement, poor contrast, or poor color vision. If a loved one experiences this symptom, they should see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Bladder Issues – The vast majority of people with MS will experience bladder issues. However, with proper diet and medications, this can be managed.
- Pain – Pain is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis with up to 55% of patients experiencing significant pain at one time or another. In addition, about half of those with MS report chronic pain.
- Dizziness – With MS comes dizziness or vertigo. It is common for the older adult to feel off balance or even lightheaded. For a smaller percent, they may experience a feeling that they are spinning or that the room is spinning.
- Tremors – While less common, those with MS can experience tremors in parts of their body. This is due to nerve damage to the pathways which are responsible for movement of those areas.
- Speech Issues – Up to about 40% of those that suffer from multiple sclerosis will notice speech issues such as slurring or a decrease in volume. This typically occurs in later stages of the disease.
- Bowel Issues – Along with bladder issues, MS sufferers can experience bowel issues with constipation being the most likely. Also, those diagnosed with MS may find that they have lost control of their bowel function as well. These issues can be managed through diet and doctor prescribed medications.
When you are the family caregiver to an older adult, it is important to be aware of multiple sclerosis and its early signs. With these warning signs top of mind, you can have your loved one see a doctor as soon as possible for a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made, there are treatments and doctor prescribed medications that can help improve the quality of life for your loved one. In most cases, MS is not fatal. But with early detection, treatments and therapy can begin, giving your loved one a head start on living a productive, happy life after an MS diagnosis.
Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with MS? What prompted you to see a doctor to seek diagnosis. We’d love for you to share your stories with us in the comments!