Multiple Sclerosis is a disease that can cause a huge number of different symptoms that often vary from person to person. We talk often about the “common” ones like fatigue, pain, temperature intolerance, cognitive impairment, spasticity, speech issues, numbness, and depression. Today I want to talk about some of the less known and stranger symptoms we can encounter. The “weird” symptoms (though really, aren’t all of our symptoms weird?). It should be no surprise that a disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system can have such a varied range of symptoms, these are arguably the most complex parts of our body and so much is still unknown about how they work. So, there are many symptoms people experience and never even consider that they were caused by MS. I’m going to mention a few here, but it in no way will be all of them!
Wetness and other weird sensations
I’m gonna start off with one that I experience often and felt crazy when I spoke to my doctor about it. It’s a feeling of wetness in my limbs. For me, it often happens with my legs (but this happens to other parts of the body too), I will suddenly feel like my legs are soaking wet. Like I just stepped out of a pool. It is such a realistic feeling that I will instinctively reach down to check on them. My hand feels dryness, my legs feel wet. It’s an extremely weird sensation. My eyes and my hands are telling me that my legs are dry, but my legs are telling me they are wet. I’ve since learned that many people with MS get this or a similar feeling. Along with wetness, I’ll often get other weird sensations, like vibrations in my leg. It literally feels like a cell phone is vibrating in my pocket, even though my phone is on the table.
One weird symptom you may have heard about is the dreaded MS Hug. The hug is essentially an assortment of pains and sensations around the muscles between your ribs. The end result is intense squeezing and crushing feelings. Like someone has wrapped around you and is giving you a crushing hug. Some people will feel more like pressure, burning, numbness, or tingling than squeezing, but regardless, it’s extremely uncomfortable. It’s also something that many people don’t realize is caused by MS.
Lhermitte’s Sign, also called Barber Chair Sign, is an electric shock sensation that happens when the neck is tilted down. The electric shock feeling will often go through your arms and legs when you move your neck. While it’s often when you tilt your head down, suddenly moving your neck in other directions can trigger it too. Imagine feeling a sudden electric jolt through your body just because you moved your head? It’s awful. Now imagine the consequences of such a thing if you were driving or operating dangerous equipment, it’s not only unpleasant, it’s dangerous.
This is more a byproduct of treatment than the actual disease, but there is a tendency for those battling MS to get other illnesses more easily. The very nature of the disease is that our immune system isn’t working right (it’s attacking our own bodies), so many treatments will often decrease the effectiveness of our immune system. That can be good for battling MS, but it can also mean that we are more likely to catch every other bug out there. If I’m out in a big crowd, I can almost guarantee I’ll come back with something. Picking up an illness, even something like the common cold can be a nightmare. It’ll often last much longer for me than others and can also ramp up my MS. Ashley does a good job talking about some other aspects of getting sick here. My point is that we are much more susceptible and need to remember that.
Not always thought of as an MS symptom, it is now being recognized as being much more common than was previously thought It’s even been mentioned that migraines may be up to twice as common in those with MS than the normal population. Studies are still being done, however, many people I know with MS suffer from migraines, which can be extremely debilitating.
Another not so well known set of symptoms is dizziness and vertigo. Feelings of dizziness and feeling off-balance can actually be quite common among those with MS. When coupled with muscle weakness and foot drop, it’s no wonder falls are such a common problem among MS patients. Vertigo, which is the sensation of you or your surroundings spinning, may be less common, but can be extremely hard to deal with. I unfortunately have experience with vertigo, during one relapse, I suffered from it almost constantly for a couple weeks. It makes every aspect of life incredibly difficult.
So these are just a few of the weird symptoms that MS can cause. There are plenty more that I’ll perhaps delve into later. In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you and find out what weird symptoms you’ve experienced. I recommend checking out our Q&A section on the topic and letting us know there!
Thanks for reading! – Devin