Lesser-Known MS Evils
I love living in a world where I can Google anything and instantly have an answer at my fingertips. It especially comes in handy when you are living with a disease like multiple sclerosis (MS), which loves to throw curveballs at you constantly. You can turn to the internet and find pages and pages of information about symptoms and medicines, and even browse forums of other people living with MS trading information and experiences.
Looking beyond the most common MS symptoms
Nearly every informational MS site you visit has loads of information on the common symptoms like numbness and optic neuritis, but what about the other lesser-known evils of MS? You may find a stray article here or there, but there simply isn’t a lot of information on some of the rarer MS symptoms. Suddenly, even in a sea of endless information, you may find yourself stranded on a seemingly deserted island left wondering, “Is this an MS symptom?” or, “Am I the only one who experiences this?”
Talking about the rare MS symptoms
I think we should start a conversation about these rarer issues, so I went ahead and started a list for us. Some of these are known to be linked to MS, while others are not so clear-cut. My hope is that you will all share your experiences and let someone else out there know that they are not alone.
Named for the French neurologist Jean L'hermitte, this is an electric sensation that runs down the spine when the head is bent forward. Sometimes the sensation also goes into the limbs, and it ranges from feeling like a tickle to an extremely painful phenomenon.1
A lesser-known relative of trigeminal neuralgia, glossopharyngeal neuralgia is irritation of the ninth cranial nerve. It causes extreme shock-like pain in the back of the nose, throat, tongue, and ear. It can be triggered by chewing, laughing, coughing, talking, and swallowing.2
Pseudobulbar affect (PBA)
Sometimes referred to as "emotional incontinence," PBA is characterized by inappropriate and uncontrollable episodes of laughing or crying. A person with PBA may cry even when they don’t feel sad or laugh without having any reason to.1
It’s not uncommon for people with MS to have funny sensations like tingling, numbness, burning, or pins and needles. Itching is considered a more rare form of these funny feelings, known as paresthesias.3
One of the rarest symptoms of MS, hearing loss is usually caused by a lesion in the brainstem that affects the auditory nerve which is responsible for hearing.4
A temporary worsening of symptoms that occurs with exertion or elevated body temperature which improves with rest or after cooling off.5
Problems with speech
Speaking is a very complex task that requires input from several areas of the brain. MS lesions can cause slurred speech and can alter the tone and cadence of one’s voice. Some people experience a very nasally voice, which makes them sound like they have a cold. Others have to take abnormally long pauses between words or while talking.6
Tremors, or shaking movements, can occur virtually anywhere in the body including the hands, legs, vocal cords, and eyes. They can lead to difficulty performing fine motor tasks (like eating, drinking, and writing), visual difficulties (blurred vision and/or dizziness from jumpy eye movements called nystagmus), difficulty speaking, and difficulty swallowing.7
The MS "hug"
Though this symptom sounds kind of warm and fuzzy, it’s anything but. It is caused by spasms of the intercostal muscles, located between the ribs resulting in a squeezing pain around the torso. It is sort of like a full-body charley horse that can range from being merely annoying to extremely painful.8
Trouble swallowing (dysphagia)
While it is more common with advanced stages of MS, trouble swallowing can occur at any time. This may cause coughing after eating or drinking, and can even lead to choking.9
Sensitivity to cold
Sensitivity to heat is a very well-known and talked about MS symptom, but for many people extreme cold can also cause temporary worsening of symptoms.5
If you experience any of these symptoms, talk to your neurologist. There are treatments and interventions for each one, so please don’t suffer in silence.
What else would you add to the list?
Were you misdiagnosed with something else before receiving a MS diagnosis?