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Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms Overview

What Are the Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis?


Updated June 13, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Symptom Puzzle

Is it MS?

Thomas Northcut / Getty Images
Multiple sclerosis symptoms are confusing and mysterious. If you are reading this, you either are having symptoms that you suspect might be multiple sclerosis (MS), or you know that you have it and are wondering if what you are experiencing is yet another way that your disease is surprising you.

MS is a complicated disease. Many of the symptoms, such as fatigue, dizziness, tremor, pain or cognitive problems, are difficult to link to MS, as they are hard to quantify and common to many other diseases. I had all of the symptoms listed above (as well as many more) and saw at least seven or eight doctors for them over a span of 15 years before receiving my diagnosis of MS.

The list below outlines some of the major MS symptoms, but there are more than 50 symptoms that fit the bill. Fortunately, there are medications to modify the MS disease course and management strategies for the symptoms of MS. Remember, in many patients, the symptoms will remit (resolve or partially resolve) after some period of time.

Vision Problems

People with MS can experience double vision, eye discomfort and uncontrollable eye movements. Generally, eye pain is present when the eyes are moved. Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis) causes blurred vision, color confusion and even blindness in one eye.

Fifty-five percent of MS patients will have an attack of optic neuritis. In 15% of people, optic neuritis is the symptom that results in an MS diagnosis.

Read more about vision problems and multiple sclerosis:

Dizziness and Vertigo

Dizziness describes the feeling of being lightheaded or feeling faint. Vertigo is the sensation that your surroundings are spinning or the ground is rushing toward you. In some cases, this can even cause the feeling of nausea, as if you had motion sickness.

Read more about dizziness and vertigo and multiple sclerosis:

Muscle-Related Symptoms

These include weakness, problems with coordination and loss of balance. The muscle-related symptoms most often occur in the arms and legs. At times, these symptoms may impair walking. Spasticity, which is the involuntary tightening of a muscle, can manifest as stiffness, pain or spasms.

Some may experience difficulty making small or complex movements and may notice that their hands shake when trying to pick something up, write or button their shirt. This is called "intention tremor."

Read more about muscle-related symptoms of multiple sclerosis:


Some people with MS experience pain, often in the arms and legs. Another common symptom can be a tight, painful band around the stomach or torso, which is often referred to as a “girdle sensation” or "MS hug." Facial pain can also occur. Additionally, people with MS can experience muscle pain from trying to compensate for poor coordination or weakness.

Read more about pain and multiple sclerosis:


This common MS symptom may be triggered by heat (from weather or exertion) or physical activity, or it may be a more constant lack of energy. MS-related fatigue is tiredness that often does not respond to adequate sleep and rest and may last all day.

Read more about fatigue and multiple sclerosis:

Sensory Symptoms

Parasthesias, or abnormal feelings, can occur in MS. These usually take the form of numbness or tingling, usually in the arms and legs. Some people also experience a loss of sensation or an inability to feel temperature (for example, hot things may feel cold).

Read more about sensory symptoms of multiple sclerosis:

Next Page: More MS Symptoms (including heat sensitivity, depression, speech-related problems and cognitive dysfunction)
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