Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Early Warning Signs and Types

Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2022

What is multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Illustration of the brain with one healthy myelin sheath and one being destroyed
Over half of people with MS experience some kind of short- or long-term pain.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that causes demyelination, or disruption of the substance that coats and protects nerve cells, in the spinal nerve and brain cells. The specific symptoms and severity of the disease are related to the exact areas of the nervous system that are affected and the extent of the damage to the myelin. Therefore, MS can cause many different kinds of signs and symptoms in areas throughout the body.

Multiple sclerosis occurs predominantly in younger persons, with those aged 15 to 60 most commonly diagnosed with the condition. The average age of diagnosis is about 30 years; however, multiple sclerosis has been identified at all ages but is rare in children.

Is MS hereditary?

People who have a first-degree relative with MS tend to have a slightly higher risk for developing the disease, but overall, genetic or hereditary factors are not believed to play a significant role in determining who develops MS.

Is MS painful?

While many of the symptoms of MS are not associated with pain (see below), painful involuntary muscle contractions can occur in some people with MS. The burning and tingling sensations of MS can also be painful. In total, over half of all people with MS report experiencing some kind of short-term or long-term pain.

What are the early warning signs and symptoms of MS?

The early signs and symptoms of MS depend upon which areas of the brain or spinal cord are affected. Therefore, symptoms can vary greatly among individuals. Not all people with MS will have the same symptoms.

Examples of possible symptoms include one or more of the following:

  1. Vision changes
  2. Double vision
  3. Blurred vision
  4. Loss of vision
  5. Numbness
  6. Tingling
  7. Burning or stabbing sensations
  8. Weakness that can be mild to severe
  9. Painful involuntary muscle contractions
  10. Paralysis
  11. Vertigo
  12. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  13. Erectile dysfunction in men
  14. Pregnancy problems in women
  15. Urinary problems
  16. Urinary retention
  17. Incontinence of urine
  18. Urinary frequency
  19. Urinary urgency
  20. Nocturia (night-time urination)
  21. Slurred speech
  22. Constipation
  23. Changes in sex drive or sexual response
  24. Tremors
  25. Headaches
  26. Itching
  27. Swallowing difficulty
  28. Fatigue
  29. Muscle spasms
  30. Poor muscle coordination
  31. Gait disturbances
  32. Hearing loss
  33. Balance problems
  34. Cognitive changes
  35. Difficulty concentrating
  36. Problems with reasoning
  37. Memory problems
  38. Reduced attention span
  39. Difficulty with problem-solving
  40. Emotional changes
  41. Anxiety
  42. Depression
  43. Stress


What kind of disease is multiple sclerosis? See Answer

Are the early signs and symptoms for MS different in men and women?

Any of the early signs and symptoms of MS can occur in both men and women and are not specific. However, certain symptoms such as pregnancy problems or erectile dysfunction (ED, impotence), are gender-specific symptoms.

What are the early signs and symptoms of MS progression (stage)?

Signs and symptoms of MS progression can include worsening of any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above as well as the development of additional symptoms listed above that were not present at the initial diagnosis.

What are the four types of MS?

There are four different types of MS:

  1. Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS) is the most common form of MS. People with this type of MS develop symptoms that respond to treatment and then resolve. Episodes of remission may last for weeks to years.
  2. Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) occurs when the symptoms of an exacerbation don't fully resolve during a remission.
  3. Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) progresses over time, without episodes of remission.
  4. Progressive-relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS) occurs when there are escalating symptoms over time along with intermittent episodes of remission.
Medically Reviewed on 7/26/2022
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