Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms

MS has the potential to cause several different symptoms and the specific symptoms each person experiences vary greatly. When experiencing one or more of these symptoms, individuals should consult their physician. Medications are available to treat many MS symptoms. These may include over-the-counter drugs as well as prescribed medications. Diet, exercise, counseling, and lifestyle/wellness therapies, may also be helpful with managing certain symptoms. All treatments are best accomplished through the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional.

MS symptoms are often compounded by extreme fatigue, which may be worse in the afternoon, sometimes relating to a rise in body temperature. Some symptoms may be temporarily increased by heat intolerance – a classic MS tendency, where a rise in temperature (internally or externally) causes a person to feel much worse. Keeping cool through air-conditioning or various cooling devices (such as those offered by MSAA’s Cooling Distribution Program), may be helpful for people with heat-sensitive MS.

When recovering from a symptom flare-up or learning to cope with a change in mobility, rehabilitation through physical therapy and occupational therapy can be of great value. Speech therapy, therapeutic exercise, and certain medical devices may also be useful in dealing with the symptoms of MS. Some of those who have a physically demanding or highly stressful job may choose to make a career change, in which case vocational training is helpful.

Photo of people talkingWhen a family member is diagnosed with MS, participating in some type of counseling program is often of benefit to everyone involved. Individuals may be affected in different ways, both physically and emotionally. Seeking professional assistance helps to ensure that MS does not disrupt one’s family and happiness.

A wide variety of symptoms can occur with MS. To help categorize the effects of MS, MSAA has listed the commonly experienced symptoms alphabetically in three groups, as follows:

Common Physical Symptoms of MS

  • balance problems
  • bladder dysfunction
  • bowel problems
  • muscle spasticity (stiffness)
  • sexual dysfunction
  • speech difficulties
  • swallowing disorders
  • tremor
  • walking and mobility issues

Common Emotional, Mental, and Psychological Symptoms of MS

  • anxiety
  • cognitive changes
  • depression
  • Pseudobulbar Affect (PBA – a neurologic effect characterized by sudden, uncontrollable expressions of laughter or crying without an apparent trigger)

Common “Invisible” Symptoms of MS

  • dizziness/vertigo
  • fatigue
  • numbness
  • pain
  • sleep issues
  • Uhthoff’s syndrome (the temporary appearance of symptoms resulting from heat stress)
  • visual disorders
  • weakness

For more information on symptom management and handling the challenges of MS, please visit MSAA offers several helpful publications and videos, as well as an extensive collection of MS-related books from MSAA’s Lending Library, which may all be found on MSAA’s website at Additionally, MSAA’s Client Services Specialists are available to discuss a caller’s needs and questions personally. To speak with a Specialist, please call (800) 532-7667, extension 154 or email

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