What Are Symptoms of Primary Progressive MS?

Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Primary progressive MS
PPMS becomes worse with time and has almost no symptom-free period.

The presence of symptoms of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) and the degree to which they affect a person might vary greatly.

A few more major or minor symptoms of PPMS include:

Besides those above, learn the six most common symptoms of primary progressive multiple sclerosis below.

6 common symptoms of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS)

  1. When the neck is flexed too much, you may experience electric shocks that go down the back and limbs (Lhermitte sign).
  2. Because of PPMS, you may suffer from pain (for example, headaches, pain in the legs, feet, and back pain, and muscle spasms).
  3. Difficulty walking: Recent research has found that many people with PPMS were still able to walk years after receiving a diagnosis. However, generally, patients tended to get worse with time. This deterioration often had an impact on the individual's ability to walk and was less likely to induce visual problems or tremors.
  4. Problems in vision: Roughly half of those who have multiple sclerosis will, at some point in their lives, have at least one relapse. It is often the first manifestation of the illness in a person. Optic neuritis may be caused by several illnesses. Thus, its presence does not always indicate that a person has or will develop multiple sclerosis (MS). In most cases, the symptoms of ocular neuritis appear suddenly.
  5. Paralysis: Muscle stiffness or spasms are possible complications for those who have MS. Paralysis most often affects the legs.
  6. Problem with balance: People who suffer from multiple sclerosis often have a faltering stride. Damage to the cerebellum may lead to problems with balance and coordination because the cerebellum is responsible for controlling and correcting all the body's motions. This may even make it difficult to hold tiny things, maintain good handwriting, or keep your hand stable when writing.


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Complications of PPMS

If you have primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), you most likely sought medical attention for the first time because you had difficulty walking or weakness in your legs. Those are the symptoms of this kind of multiple sclerosis (MS) that are seen the most often.

PPMS becomes worse with time and has almost no symptom-free period. It is difficult to estimate how quickly that will happen or how much impairment it will create because there is a lot of variation in these two factors. You won't have relapses or remissions like people with other kinds of multiple sclerosis do.

Why is PPMS hard to diagnose?

Progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) affects only around 10 to 15 percent of people who have the condition. People with PPMS are often diagnosed at a later age in life than those who have other varieties.

The diagnosis of PPMS might be challenging for medical professionals. Every person who has this complicated condition experiences its symptoms uniquely. Before physicians can identify that your condition is getting worse, you can have symptoms for a few years but no severe flares.

What causes PPMS?

It is still unknown what exactly causes primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) or multiple sclerosis (MS). The most widely held belief is that MS occurs when the body's immune system begins to assault the central nervous system; this has environmental and genetic predispositions.

  • Myelin, the protective layer that surrounds neurons in the central nervous system, is lost because of this condition.
  • Although medical professionals do not think that PPMS may be passed on from parent to child, there is a possibility that it has a hereditary component.
  • Some people believe that multiple sclerosis might have been caused by a virus or an environmental toxin, in conjunction with a hereditary susceptibility to the disorder.

How is PPMS treated?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Ocrevus (ocrelizumab) for the treatment of primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS) and active secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS) with relapses. The drug works primarily by reducing inflammation in the central nervous system (CNS). If your PPMS is advanced and already resulted in nerve sheath scarring, it may not help you much.

Several experimental drugs, including Copaxone and Rituxan, have been studied in PPMS but unfortunately, without a positive effect on progression.

In addition to treatment with a disease-modifying therapy, intravenous steroids and rehabilitation strategies may help individuals with PPMS.

Medically Reviewed on 6/8/2022
Image Source: iStock image

Cleveland Clinic. Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14202-primary-progressive-multiple-sclerosis-ppms

Ontaneda D, Fox RJ. Progressive multiple sclerosis. Curr Opin Neurol. 2015;28(3):237-243. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4425257/