Surprising Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Reposted from EveryDay Health: While loss of mobility, muscle spasms, and fatigue are hallmarks of MS, they’re not the only complications. Here’s a look at some less common symptoms.

By Connie BrichfordMedically reviewed by Cynthia Haines, MD

Rick Sommers has been living with multiple sclerosis since 1994 — a condition he says has often kept him guessing. “The funny thing about MS is, if you get 10 people with MS to sit down together at a table, you’ll hear 10 completely different stories,” he says.

Here’s why: While there are many common multiple sclerosis symptoms such as fatigue, loss of mobility, depression, and speech problems, there are also a number of significantly less common but medically recognized symptoms that people with MS may face.

Multiple sclerosis attacks the central nervous system (the brain and the spine), which is responsible for controlling every aspect of the nervous system and the body’s functioning. Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary from person to person because during the course of the disease different nerves get damaged, resulting in different symptoms.

If you have multiple sclerosis and are experiencing any of the more unusual symptoms listed below, be sure to consult with your doctor. While these are recognized as less common MS symptoms, it is also possible that an entirely different health condition could be the cause. It’s a good idea to have a specialist rule out other possibilities so you can be sure that you’re following the best MS treatment plan for you.

Surprising Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Itching: We’ve all been bitten by mosquitoes and many of us have had rashes or allergic breakouts that cause itching of the skin. While the sensation of itching caused by multiple sclerosis may be similar, the cause is very different. Called “dysesthetic itching,” this kind of itchiness results from damage to the nerves in the skin or in the pathways that send signals to the skin nerves. The result is that your body feels an itching sensation even when there are no physical causes.

While over-the-counter medications such as the classic pink calamine lotion will not work on itching with neurological causes, there are prescription drugs available to treat this MS symptom. Talk to your doctor to see what’s best for you if you’re dealing with skin itching and have MS.

Tremors: This symptom describes uncontrolled shaking of one or more body parts, usually a limb, but sometimes involves the head, neck, trunk, and vocal cords. Such tremors are experienced by 25 to 60 percent of multiple sclerosis patients. They are sometimes accompanied by speaking and swallowing problems because the same nerve group controls all of these activities. While there are some medications and therapies that have had some success treating this relatively rare MS symptom, a review published in the Journal of Neurology concluded that more research is needed to understand the causes of MS-related tremors.

Hearing Loss: About 6 percent of people living with multiple sclerosis experience hearing loss, which can be caused if multiple sclerosis attacks the auditory nerve. This symptom occurs infrequently enough that the National Multiple Sclerosis Society recommends that people experiencing hearing loss meet with a specialist and have a full screening to rule out other possible causes.

Swallowing Problems: Swallowing problems, medically known as dysphagia, are sometimes seen among people living with multiple sclerosis. As with most MS symptoms, this problem can occur when an area of nerves that regularly aides in the swallowing process is damaged. This means that it’s easy for the affected person to cough or choke while eating or drinking; sometimes food is inhaled into the lungs, causing infections.

To evaluate swallowing problems, you will probably be referred to a speech pathologist who can teach you techniques that will help to improve your ability to swallow; there are also a number of dietary changes you can make as well as exercises you can do. People who have swallowing issues often have speech disorders as well.