There are about 1 million Americans living today with multiple sclerosis, or MS, and about 200 new cases are diagnosed in this country each week.
Untreated, MS can be debilitating, making daily tasks hard or impossible.
But we’ve gotten much better at diagnosing MS — and treating it.
What are the symptoms of MS?
The first signs of MS include:
- Vision problems, like blurry vision, trouble focusing, loss of vision, double vision or eye pain
- Fatigue or exhaustion
- Trouble speaking or swallowing
- Problems walking or moving about, including clumsiness, balance problems, tremors or dizziness
- Sexual dysfunction
- Pain or muscle stiffness, weakness or spasms
- Unclear reasoning and difficulty making plans
- Bowl or bladder problems, like having to urinate more frequently, feeling like you still need to go, recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs), constipation or incontinence
Most people with MS do not have all these symptoms but may have one or more. And experiencing these symptoms doesn’t mean you have MS, but they can indicate something is wrong that should be addressed with your primary care provider. MS is usually diagnosed by a neurologist.
How is MS diagnosed?
No one test accurately diagnoses MS — and that’s why other causes for symptoms have to be ruled out first.
Often, at least two different onsets of MS symptoms are necessary to make a confident diagnosis. A confirmation usually includes:
- A neurological exam to look for changes in your vision, strength in your arms and legs, balance, clarity of speech and response to tests of your reflexes
- An MRI to look for scarring of the myelin sheath that surrounds the nerves in your brain and spinal cord
- A lumbar puncture, which takes a sample of spinal fluid to test for immune cells and antibodies
- Blood tests to rule out other possible causes of symptoms
These give healthcare providers better insight into the causes of symptoms and the possibility that you have MS.
Treatments for MS
No two MS patients are the same, and different treatments may work better for each person with MS.
Research and innovation have made MS treatment life-changing for many people. While there is still no cure for MS, steroids can help relieve some MS symptoms during relapses, and disease-modifying therapies can reduce relapses.
Neurologists, speech therapists, primary care providers or other specialists can provide a more comprehensive approach to helping you live with MS.
That’s what makes Tanner so unique: We have the resources and specialists you need to accurately diagnose, treat and improve your life with MS.
If you’re having symptoms, don’t wait: Help is nearby. Let’s get better.
Learn more and schedule an appointment at TannerNeurology.org.