Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system begins to attack the central nervous system (nerves in the brain and spinal cord). Over time, prolonged damage affects protective covering on nerve fibers called myelin sheath which causes nerves to work improperly. It leads to communication errors between the brain and the body. Unfortunately, this disorder can easily provoke brain atrophy and severe disability.
In fact, multiple sclerosis commonly occurs in young adults (around 20 and 40 years of age). Moreover, it’s at least two times more common in women than in men. This is a complicated and invisible disease and therefore it’s often overlooked. Since multiple sclerosis can lead to irreversible neurological problems and disability, it’s crucial to learn about signs of this disease.
Scientists still don’t know the exact cause of multiple sclerosis, but they assume it might be provoked by hormonal, genetic, and environmental factors. Having a family history of multiple sclerosis increases your risk of multiple sclerosis. Scientists have found certain genes that are linked to an increased risk of multiple sclerosis.
Also, there is a theory that low vitamin D exposure in utero and early in life can increase the risk of this neurological disorder as well. That’s why multiple sclerosis is more common in geographical areas further from the equator.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common early symptoms of M.S. every young adult should look out for. Although everyone can develop the condition, it is more common in women. It’s even more important for women in their 20s and 30s to pay attention to potential early symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
1. Sleep Issues
According to a 2014 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine study involving more than 2,300 multiple sclerosis sufferers, around 70% of people with M.S. have at least one sleep issue, for instance, insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome.
2. Bladder Dysfunction
Multiple sclerosis can also affect bladder function due to the fact that it interrupts the neural systems in charge of controlling bladder function. So, the early signs of M.S. can include difficulties in controlling urine, sense of having to pee immediately, frequent urges to urinate, or difficulties in starting to urinate.
Depression can be an early symptom of multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic inflammatory condition which means it triggers overall inflammation that affects neurotransmitter systems.
Anyway, if you’re struggling with depression, it doesn’t mean you have multiple sclerosis. People in their 20s and 30s can easily develop depression, as this is usually a time of growth and changes in life and thus it might lead to mental health issues. However, if you have depression along with other early symptoms of M.S., it’s wise to visit a neurologist or primary care physician as soon as possible.
4. Vision Problems
There are two types of vision problems that occur in multiple sclerosis: afferent visual pathway disorders and efferent visual pathway disorders. In general, vision problems in M.S. are called optic neuritis. Afferent disorders usually impact only one eye and contribute to temporary vision loss. Efferent disorders provoke things like ocular misalignment, which can make you see double, or repetitive, uncontrolled eye movements.
Pay special attention to symptoms such as eye pain, vision loss, loss of peripheral vision, loss of color vision, seeing double, or blurred.
5. Sexual Dysfunction
Sexual dysfunction, like having a hard time reaching orgasm, can happen with M.S. “because there’s not enough sensory input back to the spinal cord,” Dr. Vollmer explains. Not to mention, many of the symptoms of M.S. (like depression, fatigue, and bladder issues) can impact desire and sex drive from a psychological standpoint, says Hughes.
Fatigue is the most common symptom of multiple sclerosis. It appears in 75% to 95% of people with the disorder. Since fatigue is not related to the severity of the condition and can appear at any stage, it’s often one of the earliest recognizable signs. Although scientists still don’t know the root cause of sclerosis-related fatigue, it might be linked to a higher level of cytokines (inflammatory proteins), so you might feel like your body is struggling with a virus all the time, which actually results in fatigue. Another assumption is that people with multiple sclerosis have to work harder to function in general, they need to use more parts of the brain to do the same task compared to people without this condition.
The sooner you start neurological rehabilitation, the better the chances to slow down multiple sclerosis, and the less risk to suffer from severe disability.
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