MS affects the body by causing, among other things, muscle spasms, problems with thinking and learning, and mobility problems.
How does MS affect the body?The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are varied, can affect any part of the body, and every patient is affected differently. For some, the symptoms develop and get more pronounced over time, and for others the symptoms come and go. Two terms that are often used are:
- Relapse – when symptoms that have abated for a time, come back.
- Remission – When symptoms that have been bad, improve or clear.
- Problems with sight
- Trouble with balance and dizziness
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle spasms, stiffness and weakness
- Problems when thinking or planning
- Sexual problems
- Bladder problems
- Bowel problems
- Problems with speech and swallowing
For more information on the history, causes and treatments of MS, see MS: A Deeper Dive
FatigueFatigue is an ‘invisible symptom’ of multiple sclerosis. It comes as a sudden loss of energy that prevents the patient from being able to continue an activity. It can be either or both mental and physical. It cannot be ‘worked through’, and the recovery time can be long.
Problems with sightAs multiple sclerosis affects nervous system, it’s not surprising that it should affect the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain. 20% of MS patients experience a problem with one of their eyes. It can be temporary loss of vision, colour blindness, flashes of light, blind spots with otherwise good vision, and often causes pain.
Trouble with balance and dizzinessRoughly speaking there are 3 parts to the balance system, and all rely on swift transmission of information about the outer environment, to the brain. When the pathways that carry these signals are interrupted, the physical effects can be destabilising. To balance we need:
- Effective sight to communicate information about the environment
- A stable inner ear to update the brain on the angle of the head
- Clear senses to communicate where the various parts of the body are
The skeletonDue to some common treatments and increased inactivity, MS patients are at a greater risk of developing osteoporosis, which causes weakened bones. Osteoporosis can make people with MS more susceptible to fractures and breaks, and as balance is often an issue, falls can become a problem.
Numbness and tinglingNumbness and tingling can affect any part of the body, but commonly affects the face, arms and legs. This is one of the most common symptoms of MS, and often the first symptom that raises alarm. The numbness can be slight, or it can be so severe that it has an effect on carrying out everyday activities.
If you are caring for someone with MS, the HomeTouch team can help. We can provide you with advice and support, and help you to find a top quality carer in your local area.
Just call 020 7148 0746.
Problems with thinking and planningCognitive problems affect about 50% of people with MS, and those patients will experience some problems with memory, attention span, planning, decision making, and understanding. These problems are more likely to arise the longer the condition persists.
Sexual problemsMS can cause complications with sexual responses and relationships. Orgasms require messages to be sent through the nervous system between the brain and the sexual organs, and if there’s nerve damage in the pathways involved, then this can cause simple functional barriers.
Bladder problemsThe bladder works when the senses communicate with the brain that the bladder is getting full. This warning usually allows time for getting to a toilet. Once there, the muscles in the bladder need to coordinate; one relaxes while the other contracts. There are two problems that can face people with MS:
Bowel problemsThese can be a source of great discomfort and embarrassment for MS patients. The two extremes are constipation and diarrhoea. Constipation can be caused by:
- Reduced fluid intake
- Reduced physical activity
- The side effects of certain medications
- Keeping fluid levels high
- Eating plenty of fibre; fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains
- Physical activity