Common symptoms of MS

MS affects everyone differently. Because MS can affect different functions of the brain, people experience a wide range of symptoms. But there are some common signs of MS, most involving balance, vision, memory, movement, or sexual function, including1:

  • Fatigue - feeling tired, and not having as much energy is a common complaint of people with MS
  • Numbness - many people report feeling numbness or tingling sensations in parts of the body
  • Balance problems - a loss of balance is a common early symptom of MS
  • Chronic pain - more than half of people with MS experience some kind of pain
  • Difficulty walking - mobility issues are one of the most common MS symptoms
  • Spasticity - sometimes muscles will tighten or cramp up, making it hard to move the affected limb and causing pain
  • Depression - the stress of coping with a disease like MS can often lead to depression. Depression is a serious disease, so it is important that people with MS who experience depression talk to their doctor
  • Sexual problems - the nerve damage caused by MS can sometimes affect a person's sexual function
  • Bladder problems - MS interferes with the functioning of the bladder, which can result in a range of symptoms from mild urgency to incontinence

One of the reasons why MS can be a confusing and frustrating disease is that it's not always easy to diagnose, and not everyone displays the same symptoms. Some people have many symptoms, whereas others have few; some people have mild symptoms, whereas for others they can be more severe; for some, symptoms come and go, whereas for others they might linger. The important thing to remember is that there are effective treatments for many of these symptoms, so anyone experiencing new MS symptoms should talk to their doctor about treatment.1

1. Symptoms. International MS Federation Web site. Accessed on 16 February 2011.