Risk factors and symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Risk factors and symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a condition in which the immune system affects the protective covering of the nerves in the central nervous system.

Risk factors
The cause for multiple sclerosis is yet to be determined, but there are various factors that increase the risk of this condition.

  • Smoking may raise the risk of contracting this disease.
  • People with certain genes may have a higher chance of developing multiple sclerosis.
  • It has been suggested that vitamin D could strengthen the immune system and provide protection from multiple sclerosis.
  • Women are more likely to develop multiple sclerosis than men, but the reason for this is still unclear.
  • People who are obese in their teen years have an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis as they grow older.

Multiple sclerosis causes a wide range of symptoms and can affect any part of the body. The symptoms are unpredictable and vary from person to person. The symptoms in some people develop and worsen steadily, while for others, they come and go. The times when the symptoms get worse is known as relapse. The times when symptoms improve or disappear is known as remission.

Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
    Fatigue is the most common and troublesome symptom of this condition. It causes an overwhelming sense of exhaustion. One may struggle to perform even the simplest of actions. Fatigue gets worse by the end of the day and also during illness, after exercise, and in hot weather.
  • Vision problems
    Optic neuritis, a vision-related issue, is one of the most prominent symptoms of multiple sclerosis. 1 in 4 of the affected patients goes through this. One may experience temporary loss of vision, color blindness, pain in the eye, flashes of light, involuntary eye movement, and double vision. Usually, only one eye is affected, but occasionally both the eyes could be affected.
  • Abnormal sensations
    Some people may experience numbness or tingling in different parts of the body. This abnormal sensation is an early symptom of multiple sclerosis and is usually felt in the arms, legs, or trunk.
  • Mobility issues
    Walking and moving around becomes difficult, and one may experience difficulty in balance and coordination, shaking of the limbs, clumsiness, dizziness, and vertigo.
  • Cognitive dysfunction
    Issues with thinking, learning, and planning new things could be a sign of this condition. Slowness in managing multiple tasks simultaneously, shortened attention span, difficulty in problem-solving and reasoning (mathematics), and problems with processing visual information could also be signs of multiple sclerosis.
  • Pain
    Pain is a direct symptom of multiple sclerosis and is referred to as neuropathic pain. It is caused by damage to the nervous system. Stabbing pain in the face and a sensation of burning, pricking, and squeezing can be felt in the limbs and body. Painful muscle spasms could also be present. Musculoskeletal pain can be indirectly caused by multiple sclerosis.
  • Mental health
    Anxiety and depression are experienced by patients. They may also experience rapid and severe mood swings for no apparent reason.
  • Bladder/bowel issues
    It is a common issue with people suffering from multiple sclerosis. Feeling the urgent need to urinate, urinating frequently, difficulty in emptying the bladder, frequent urination at night, and recurrent UTIs are some bladder issues that people with this condition may develop. Problems with bowel function like constipation and bowel incontinence are also common.
  • Speech and swallowing difficulties
    Slurred speech (dysarthria) and difficulty in chewing and swallowing (dysphagia) are also symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

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