Symptoms of the Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis

Jan 19, 2023
Symptoms of the Different Types of Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) symptoms and treatments vary according to the type you’re experiencing. However, doctors can’t always rely on your specific symptoms to create a treatment plan. Confused? Our specialist can help solve the puzzle of MS.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex, chronic, and sometimes disabling disease that affects the central nervous system. There’s currently no cure for MS, but treatment advances have greatly improved our ability to manage symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve quality of life.

Yashma Patel, MD at Valley Neurology, specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of MS. Dr. Patel offers compassionate care to individuals in and around Spokane Valley, Washington. She also welcomes patients from throughout Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. 

Read what Dr. Patel says about MS types and their symptoms.

Understanding MS symptoms

Researchers currently categorize MS into four types, each caused by an autoimmune disorder that destroys the myelin sheath surrounding and protecting nerves in the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system). 

This damage disrupts nerve signals between the brain and spinal cord, affecting messages that control movement, sensation, and vision.

MS symptoms vary significantly from person to person, depending on which type you have and which nerves are involved. To add to the confusion, MS can move through active and inactive disease phases, and your symptoms may change accordingly.

Your MS symptoms may include one or more of the following:

  • Disabling fatigue
  • Dysesthesia, squeezing sensation around the torso (MS hug)
  • Walking difficulties caused by muscle spasticity, weakness, and loss of balance
  • Numbness or tingling in the face, body, arms, or legs
  • Vision problems, e.g., blurred vision, poor color vision, and pain with eye movements
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sensation that the room is spinning (vertigo)
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Bowel problems, chronic constipation, or unexpected loss of stool
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Chronic pain
  • Tremors that may occur in the hands, legs, trunk, or other areas
  • Reduced vocal volume
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Cognitive changes (difficulty processing information, problem-solving, etc.)
  • Depression

Depending on the type of MS, these symptoms can vary in intensity, resolve for a time, or persist and worsen. Fortunately, early and consistent treatment for MS can help limit its effect on your quality of life.

Types of multiple sclerosis

Doctors currently recognize four types of MS:

Clinically isolated syndrome (CIS)

CIS is diagnosed when you experience an episode of MS-like symptoms, such as vision problems or dysesthesia, lasting at least 24 hours. 

If a diagnostic MRI at that point shows changes consistent with MS, you’re at increased risk of a second CIS episode and eventual diagnosis of relapsing-remitting MS. 

Some people, however, never develop MS following a single CIS episode.

Relapsing-remitting MS (RRMS)

About 85% of people with MS are initially diagnosed with this type. RRMS causes clearly defined episodes of new or increasing neurologic symptoms (relapses) due to active disease.

These relapsing episodes are followed by partial or complete remission that may last for months to years as the disease becomes inactive again.

During partial RRMS remission, you may continue to have symptoms related to previous nerve damage. Your symptoms resolve during complete remission. In both cases, however, the disease is inactive, and disability doesn’t progress.

Secondary progressive MS (SPMS)

People diagnosed with RRMS may eventually transition to SPMS. This type of MS causes progressive declines in neurologic function and worsening disability. 

You may experience occasional disease stability with SPMS, but disability accumulates whether or not an MRI shows active disease.

Primary progressive MS (PPMS)

People with PPMS experience worsening neurologic function and disability from the onset of symptoms. Unlike other types, there are no early relapses or remissions with PPMS, but you may have periods of disease stability followed by active disease per MRI studies.

How is MS treated?

At Valley Neurology, Dr. Patel provides comprehensive, personalized care for MS that includes medication to reduce the number of relapses, delay the progression of disability, and limit new disease activity.

You may also benefit from physical therapy to improve balance or increase muscle strength and flexibility. Dr. Patel may recommend medication to manage symptoms related to depression, bladder dysfunction, etc. 

In addition, meditation, yoga, and other similar activities can help manage the stress associated with this life-altering disease.

Schedule an evaluation with Dr. Patel at Valley Neurology for multiple sclerosis treatment that slows disease progression and improves your quality of life. Call the office or request an appointment online.