For individuals that live with multiple sclerosis, they know that managing the disease and trying to maintain some degree of health is a difficult task. The symptoms of multiple sclerosis can be far-reaching since it is a disease that affects the central nervous system, and this means that sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish between multiple sclerosis and other conditions. But for both individuals who have lived with the condition for a long time, as well as individuals who may be just beginning to adjust to life with the disease, identifying a flare-up can be crucial. Although it can be difficult to spot a multiple sclerosis flare-up early on, researchers are continuing to identify more signs and symptoms of the disease.
For both individuals who may be new to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as well as individuals who have been coping with the disease for a greater period of time, change or loss in vision can be a crucial early sign of a flare-up. An inflammation of multiple sclerosis has an impact on the nervous system and specifically can interrupt the optic nerve. When this cluster experiences a flare-up, then an individual will likely experience a loss of vision or blurred vision. It can be difficult to notice a change in vision, especially if a bout of inflammation sets in slowly. Vision changes can seem like normal degeneration and not like a side-effect of multiple sclerosis. If there is pain associated with looking up or to the side, these can be additional signs of inflammation. Keeping careful track of changes in vision, even if it feels like something normal, can be an important way to stay on top of multiple sclerosis.
Another symptom of multiple sclerosis that may be easier to spot is the presence of muscular pain or muscle spasms. Unlike changing vision, people don’t typically expect pain. In fact, pain is the body’s response to something that has gone wrong. Many individuals who live with multiple sclerosis experience chronic pain, and individuals experiencing a flare-up are likely to also experience pain. In addition to muscular pain, individuals with multiple sclerosis may also experience muscle spasms that feel like a sudden tightening or contraction of the muscles followed by release. Both pain and spasms are signs that should not be ignored.
Although it could be a result of many different problems, gait disturbance or unsteadiness that makes it difficult to walk is another sign of multiple sclerosis. If an individual is experiencing gait disturbance especially accompanied by a feeling of light-headedness or dizziness then this may be further evidence of multiple sclerosis and a flare-up. Like muscle pain, gait disturbance and dizziness is more difficult to ignore, especially as the symptom persists, but these conditions can often be associated with other causes, sometimes causes as simple as being too hungry. For individuals experiencing multiple sclerosis, these symptoms shouldn’t be brushed aside. If they persist for more than just a short spell, especially if they don’t get better after a day or two, then seeking out medical assistance may be the best option.
Irregular brain function
A large percentage of individuals that have multiple sclerosis, up to about half, will likely experience some kind of irregular brain functioning or cognitive disturbance. This again goes back to the source of the issue; multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system which in turn has symptoms that are far-reaching in their effect. The severity of symptoms is always different from patient to patient, and the cognitive problems that an individual with multiple sclerosis may experience will vary as well. Some patients may experience more mild symptoms like forgetfulness or difficulty with organizing things like their environment or personal schedule. Alternatively, some individuals may experience more severe conditions like full memory loss or depression. Changes in cognitive functioning can be especially difficult for an individual to recognize in himself or herself, so it’s important for caregivers or friends and loved ones to be on the lookout for these types of changes. While some of these changes may be caused by stress or the natural effect of aging, symptoms could also be a sign of a deeper problem.
Sense of smell
Researchers and physicians have conducted more recent tests that suggest another connection between the presence of multiple sclerosis in an individual and smell. The theory is that the olfactory response system in an individual is disrupted by an inflammation of the condition which in turn will affect a patient’s ability to smell. A patient may lose his or her ability to smell complete, or he or she may only lose the ability partially or just experience an alteration in normal functioning. Change in smell can be a potent indicator of how a patient is doing, and an early warning sign that a flare-up is on its way. If patients are careful to keep track of their ability to smell and even note small changes that may occur, then they may be able to spot trouble early on.
The importance of early recognition
The symptoms listed above are just some of the ways that multiple sclerosis and a flare-up of the disease may present themselves in a patient. These symptoms certainly won’t look the same in every patient, and some patients may not ever experience any of these symptoms at all. But for both patients who expect they may be suffering from multiple sclerosis as well as patients who have long lived with the disease and are doing their best to manage it, it’s important to be aware of how the disease presents itself.
Although treatment for multiple sclerosis is limited, there are ways to help reduce the severity of the condition. Some patients report that by paying attention to changes in their regular functioning they’re able to spot a flare-up before it gets out of control and take steps to curb it. Reducing stress in your daily life through things like resting and meditation can be a great way to combat a flare-up of the disease.
Paying attention to the presence of symptoms also helps guarantee that the root cause of the symptoms is correctly identified as multiple sclerosis. Because there are so many different parts of the body affected by multiple sclerosis and so many different symptoms and combinations of symptoms that may be present in an individual, the disease can be difficult to diagnose. By keeping track of these sometimes subtle changes, individuals and physicians may be able to catch the disease earlier on and expedite treatment to keep the disease from getting worse or out of control.
The list we’ve compiled is certainly not exhaustive. If a patient knows that he or she has multiple sclerosis, then it’s important for him or her to pay attention to changes in regular functioning, even when these changes are subtle. While a feeling of dizziness could be attributed to something as simple as a poor night’s sleep, it could also be the sign of an oncoming flare-up. If an individual is experiencing any of these symptoms or others, and especially a combination of multiple symptoms, then it may be wise to take steps to curb a potentially painful situation. Whether through slowing down and giving your body the rest it needs or through seeking out the care and help of a medical professional, early detection and action will undoubtedly be beneficial in the long run.