5 Symptoms Never to Ignore If You Have MS

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  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that attacks myelin, the substance that protects and covers nerve fibers. It’s a progressive disease with no cure. With treatment, many people with MS live long and productive lives, but they are at risk for developing complications. Knowing the signs and symptoms of MS complications will help you recognize a potential problem so you can begin medical treatment right away.

  • 1
    Increased need to urinate
    Man entering restroom

    Bladder and kidney infections are common among people with progressing MS. With MS, nerve signals to the bladder are interrupted. This can make it difficult to empty your bladder completely or to hold urine in without leaking. If you are unable to empty your bladder completely, the urine that stays in the bladder can lead to a urinary tract infection (UTI). This can then spread to your kidney. Signs and symptoms of a UTI or kidney infection include:

    • Increased need to urinate immediately or feelings of urgency

    • Burning sensation when urinating

    • Foul-smelling urine

    • Cloudy or bloody urine

    • Pain in your lower back

  • 2
    Choking or coughing
    senior man sitting in chair and coughing

    As MS progresses, swallowing food and drink can become difficult. If you choke when eating or drinking, you may aspirate something. Aspiration means food or liquid goes into your lungs rather than to your stomach. When food or liquid, even water, enters the lungs, this puts you at risk for developing aspiration pneumonia. The signs of aspiration pneumonia include:

  • 3
    Back pain
    back pain

    Osteoporosis—thinning of the bones—can occur for two reasons related to MS: medication side effects and lack of physical activity. Some medications for MS, including corticosteroids, can cause osteoporosis. Also, you may not be as physically active as you were before the disease worsened. Without regular weight-bearing activity, your bones can lose density, resulting in osteoporosis. Signs of osteoporosis include:

    • Back pain, caused by a compression fracture

    • Stooped or curved back

    • Loss of height

    • Sustaining a bone fracture in the absence of significant trauma

    • Bone loss in your jaw—something a dentist may notice during your regular checkup

  • 4
    Sores
    Dermatologist Examining Senior Woman

    If you spend more time sitting or in bed, you can develop pressure sores, also called ulcers. These sores can quickly worsen and become quite deep. Infection may set in the sore. Signs of a pressure sore will appear where your skin makes persistent contact with the bed or chair. They include:

    • Redness

    • Pain or burning

    • Skin is cool to touch compared to the surrounding area

    • Open wound

    • Pus or drainage from the wound

  • 5
    Depressed mood
    concerned senior man sitting at table

    People with progressive diseases, especially neurologic conditions, can become depressed. Depression is treatable and the sooner it is addressed, the quicker the symptoms may resolve or lessen. The signs of depression include:

    • Losing interest in things you enjoy doing

    • Insomnia or sleeping too much

    • Restlessness

    • Feeling sad or bad about yourself and your life

    • Difficulty concentrating or remembering

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.