Among relapsing MS symptoms, the “silent” symptoms can be the most challenging to communicate to others. These are the symptoms that tend to affect the people we are closest to. These symptoms can make it hard to get through the day and even impact our most intimate relationships. When it comes to these hidden symptoms, it can be helpful to open up and discuss them with others that have experienced them.
Fatigue is among the most common symptoms of MS. It can significantly interfere with your ability to function at home and work, even if you have minimal activity limitations. Fatigue is often a main reason that people with MS decide to stop working.1
While it’s not clear why fatigue is so prevalent in MS, other MS symptoms can contribute to fatigue. The considerable effort needed for some MS patients just to complete daily tasks, such as dressing, bathing, and preparing meals, can contribute to fatigue. In addition, people who wake at night due to bladder problems or nighttime muscle spasms may be sleep deprived, and those who are depressed may suffer fatigue related to depression.
Problems with sexual response, including arousal and orgasm, are common in people with MS and in the general population. These sexual problems may stem from damage to the central nervous system from MS symptoms such as fatigue or spasticity, or from psychological factors relating to self-esteem, depression, anxiety, or the stress of living with MS.
Numbness or Tingling
- Numbness of the feet can lead to difficulty walking
- Numbness of the hands can make it difficult to write, dress, or grasp objects
- Severe numbness of the face can result in biting the inside of your mouth or tongue without realizing it
- Numbness puts you at risk for suffering burns when too close to fire or touching hot water and other hot materials3
Muscle weakness is common in people with MS. Muscles can become weakened when fatigue, pain, imbalance, or other symptoms of MS lead to reduced physical activity. Muscle weakness may also result from damage to nerves that stimulate muscles. Weakness in the legs, ankles, and feet can lead to difficulty with walking. Weakness in the upper body and arms can interfere with many daily activities and self-care.
Several types of acute and chronic pain are common in MS.
- Stabbing pain in the face (called “trigeminal neuralgia”) can be an initial symptom of MS
- A brief, stabbing, electric-shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the spine when bending the neck forward (called “Lhermitte’s sign”)
- Burning or aching typically of the legs and feet or “girdling” around the trunk (sometimes called the "MS Hug")
- Burning, aching, prickling or “pins and needles”
- Muscle spasms or cramps related to spasticity
- Tightness and aching in joints, also related to spasticity
- Back and other musculoskeletal pain, related to spasticity or pressure on the body from immobility, incorrectly using mobility aids, or compensating for gait and balance problems