The Experience and the Explanation: One-Sided MS Symptoms
Last updated: January 2023
Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms have a profound effect on the body. When hands and feet become weak, daily tasks such as eating and brushing teeth may be a struggle. Some people with MS have compromised hearing or vision. Having conversations, reading, and driving require more effort and concentration. These symptoms can be challenging and even painful.1,2
MultipleSclerosis.net community members recently shared their experiences with having symptoms that are worse on one side of the body. Their insight helps give a greater understanding of the MS journey than a clinical explanation can.
The daily impact of MS symptoms
MS symptoms affect the body in different ways. Often, symptoms do not affect both sides of the body equally. One side may feel different from the other. One eye may droop, one leg might drag, and one hand might have a weaker grip. Parts of the body may also feel numb or tingly, with the opposite side feeling stronger.1,2
Numbness and weakness
“My symptoms were numbness and weakness on my left side that caused a spastic hip. It was so tight that I had to swing my weak left leg forward, resulting in a limp and occasional knee buckle. The weakness and numbness in my left hand made it impossible to use a knife to cut my food.”
“This has been going on intermittently for some months now – periods of one ear turning red and feeling like it's burning. The face near it feels tingly on the cheek and jaw. It feels like it comes on randomly, sometimes with a sense of pressure around and in the ear.”
Hearing and processing information
“I've got one headset. I can consume information through the right ear. If I was to swap that around, I don't understand the conversation very well since my diagnosis. And no one told me that! It's a lot easier for me to have conversations if you're in the right ear. I find it very difficult if the audio for the conversation is through both ears. So, it's almost as if the left ear gets hypersensitive and sometimes kicks off.”
Vision issues plus much more
“For me, it seems that my right side is more affected by MS than my left side. Now, this isn’t completely visual, either. I have that burning/fire feeling on the right side of my lower body and leg.”
“Test results from the ENT determined there were issues with my eye tracking and left ear signal loss.”
Do one-sided symptoms predict future severity?
Typically, when one side of the body experiences symptoms, the opposite side of the brain is damaged. For example, those who experience stroke and have semi-paralysis on the left side of their body sustain damage to the right side of their brain. But in the early stages of MS, it is the opposite. Symptoms occur on the same side as the side of the brain with the most neurons firing.3-5
Over time, the neurons may begin firing more intensely on the opposite side of the brain. This switch in the brain's activity may indicate the beginning of worsening MS. Symptoms may start to get worse or more widespread.3,4
Each body is unique
No two people experience MS in exactly the same way. MS symptoms are unpredictable and can vary from day to day. People can experience symptoms on both sides or just one.1,2
MS is also progressive, which means it worsens and changes over time. Your symptoms may look different than they did a year or 2 ago. Your symptoms may also look different a few years from now.1,2
If your symptoms are changing, visit your doctor. They can evaluate your symptoms through a series of neurological tests. These tests examine strength and mobility, particularly in the limbs. Doctors can measure symptom severity through gripping, pulling, pushing, walking, and reflex tests.6
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