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Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Multiple Sclerosis: Symptoms and Treatment

Mar. 5th, 2022

Multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, is a rare disease that affects the central nervous system. Multiple sclerosis is a term that means “scar tissue in multiple areas."1 Multiple sclerosis is unpredictable and can affect each of those who have it differently.

To help raise awareness about multiple sclerosis, here are some facts and symptoms of MS, the different types, and the treatment options that are available for those with the disease.

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease of the brain and spinal cord.2 The disease causes the immune system to attack the protective covering of nerve fibers, which causes communication issues between the brain and rest of the body.

Myelin sheath is the covering that protects nerves; however, when it is damaged or disappears, it leaves a scar which is otherwise known as sclerosis. Doctors sometimes refer to these spots as lesions, and they can affect the brain stem, cerebellum, spinal cord, optic nerves, and some regions in the brain.

Ultimately, MS can cause permanent damage to the nerves or lead to deterioration of the nerves. Researchers are unsure what exactly causes multiple sclerosis, but they believe it’s an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system.1

Types of Multiple Sclerosis

There are four types of multiple sclerosis.3

  1. Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) – This is typically the first encounter of MS and is referred to as an “episode,” where symptoms tend to last about 24 hours. People who experience this may or may not even be diagnosed with MS.
  2. Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS) – This is the most common form of MS and an estimated 85% of people with multiple sclerosis are diagnosed with this type. RRMS is characterized by episodes with new or increasing symptoms, followed by periods where the symptoms partially or completely go away.
  3. Secondary progressive MS (SPMS) – Some people originally diagnosed with RRMS will sometimes transition into secondary progressive MS. SPMS progressively causes the brain’s neurological functions to worsen and can eventually cause disabilities.
  4. Primary progressive MS (PPMS) – This type of MS progressively worsens and causes neurological function to decline with no relapses or remissions. About 15% with MS are diagnosed with this type.

Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person, and can also depend where the nerves are that are being affected.

Some of the common symptoms of multiple sclerosis include:

  • Numbness or weakness in certain limbs that usually occurs on one side of the body at a time
  • Electric-shock feeling that happens with neck movements
  • Lack of coordination
  • Partial or complete loss of vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness2

If you begin to notice any symptoms of multiple sclerosis with no apparent cause or reason, call your doctor or set up an appointment.

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis can be a difficult and lengthy process. There is no single test that can determine if someone ultimately has MS. Many of the symptoms of MS also appear alongside other health conditions.

If a doctor notices any of the symptoms of MS, they might start by trying to rule out any other conditions that could be the cause, such as a stroke, tumor, or pressure on the spinal cord. If these symptoms last for longer than a few days, the doctor might suggest seeing a neurologist.4

A neurologist will use tests such as a MRI to make sure the brain and spinal cord are working properly. A MRI is an imaging test that can show inflammation on the brain.

A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is another test doctors may use. This test will check the fluid in the spinal column and can show high levels of proteins and other substances that might indicate MS.

Although blood tests and eye exams cannot diagnose MS, doctors may use these tests to look for any signs.

Once other health concerns are ruled out, a neurologist will look for a few determining factors:

  1. Damage on at least two spots of the brain
  2. Evidence of central nervous system disease on neurological exam
  3. Two or more episodes that have lasted at least 24 hours and at least one month apart
  4. No other explanation for the symptoms5

Treatment for Multiple Sclerosis

Unfortunately, there is no cure for multiple sclerosis. However, there are treatment options available that work to help manage symptoms, reduce relapses, and slow the progression of the disease.

Some of the treatments available for MS include:

  • Medication. There are some FDA approved medications meant for long-term MS treatment to help reduce relapses and slow the progression. There are also corticosteroids, which a doctor may recommend to reduce inflammation after an episode.6
  • Rehabilitation. Because MS can affect an individual’s physical functioning and everyday life, rehabilitation is always an option for those with MS. Whether someone needs physical, speech, or occupational therapy, there are therapists who can help an individual with mobility, speech, and any other cognitive skills.7

Learn More Today

Take the time to learn more about multiple sclerosis and its symptoms today. If you want to get involved during MS Awareness Week, click here to explore the many different ways you can help raise awareness.

Here at Saber Healthcare, our dedicated teams of physical, occupational, and speech therapists work with both short-term and long-term residents to meet their goals and needs. To learn more about Saber Healthcare and the services we provide, click here.

Saber Healthcare is an organization dedicated to providing consultant services to long term care providers. This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to be seen as professional advice. Please consult with a medical expert before relying on the information provided.


  1. Brazier, Yvette. “Multiple sclerosis: What you need to know.” Healthline Media, Medical News Today. June 6th, 2021. Accessed February 22nd, 2022.
  2. “Multiple sclerosis.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Mayo Clinic. January 7th, 2022. Accessed February 22nd, 2022.
  3. “Types of MS.” The National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Accessed February 22nd, 2022.
  4. Melinosky, Christopher. “Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Diagnosis & Tests.” WebMD, February 4th, 2022. Accessed February 23rd, 2022.
  5. “Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis (MS).” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed February 23rd, 2022.
  6. “Multiple Sclerosis (MS).” Cleveland Clinic, Accessed February 23rd, 2022.
  7. Vann, Madeline. “Rehabilitation for People with Multiple Sclerosis.” Everyday Health, February 23rd, 2016. Accessed February 23rd, 2022.