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30th May 2018

Multiple Sclerosis: The early signs to look out for and what you should do next

Orlaith Condon

Today marks World MS Day.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is the most common progressive, neurological condition among young adults in Ireland, affecting roughly around 8,000 people in the country.

The condition affects the brain and the spinal chord and blocks the myelin from sending messages from the brain to the body.

Women are more than twice as likely to develop MS than men, and with most symptoms first seen between the ages of 20 to 40, here are the signs you need to look out for.

Vision problems

In 25 percent of cases, swelling of the optic nerve is the first sign of MS. This is called optic neuritis and often times only affects one eye.

It can cause loss of sight, lack of ability to see colour and pain.

Mobility problems

Balance and coordination are also impacted by the condition, and walking and moving around can become difficult. This can eventually result in dizziness for some.

Tingling and numbness

As MS affects the communication between the brain and the rest of the body, conflicting signals can be sent around the body. This can result in tingling and numbness, which is one of the most common warning signs of the condition.


There are two different types of pain that can happen as a result of MS. Neuropathic pain is a result of damage to the central nervous system and causes stabbing pains, skin sensitivity and the sensation of burning. Musculoskeletal pain is a result of spasms and causes excess pressure on the muscles and joints.

Fatigue and weakness

Nearly 80 percent of people suffer from fatigue and weakness in the early stages of MS.

This can develop into chronic fatigue which occurs when the nerves deteriorate in the spinal column.

Bladder and bowel problems

Again, nearly 80 percent of people with MS will suffer from a dysfunctional bladder which can become overactive or underactive. MS can also cause constipation as well as incontinence.

If you are presenting with any of these symptoms you are advised to see your GP, however, in most cases they can be attributed to other minor conditions.

However, if your GP thinks it could be MS you will be asked for a detailed medical history, and you may have to undergo tests such as neurological examination, an MRI scan, evoked potentials test, a spinal tap and blood tests.

As it stands, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, however, there are treatments that can help relieve the some of the symptoms and slow the progression of the condition.