What's causing my symptoms?


Multiple sclerosis can cause a wide range of symptoms, although you’re unlikely to encounter them all.  

The symptoms you experience will depend on where damage to your nerves has occurred in your brain and/or spinal cord and which nerve messages are interrupted or blocked. 

Some symptoms, such as balance issues or eye problems are associated with damage to a specific are in the brain or spinal cord. However, with some symptoms it’s not possible to associate them with a specific area of damage or the cause is unclear, for example fatigue and pain.

You can use this tool to find out more about MS symptoms including how they can potentially interact with each other – for example fatigue can cause other symptoms such as pain to feel much worse. 

Clicking on a box on the left narrows down the list of symptoms into groups by type or the part of the body they can affect. Links on the right take you to our A to Z page on each symptom to find out more.
 

Please select your symptoms
Altered sensations, such as pins and needles, burning or crawling feelings, numbness or tightness are common in multiple sclerosis. Find out more in this A-Z entry.
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Anxiety is a common symptom for people living with multiple sclerosis. Find out more in this A-Z entry.
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Ataxia is the medical term for lack of coordination and can be a symptom of multiple sclerosis. Find out more in this A-Z entry.
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Can MS affect your balance? Multiple sclerosis can affect your balance in a number of ways, and lead to increased falls. You can manage balance problems with a combination of physiotherapy treatments and activities as well as by being aware of factors that could make your balance worse. Find out more in this A-Z entry.
Bladder and bowel problems are common in MS, however this is an area where successful treatments are available and straightforward lifestyle changes can make a real difference.
Some people with multiple sclerosis experience bladder accidents (urinary incontinence), where bladder control is lost and urine leaks out. Treatment options can include pelvic floor exercises, medication, lifestyle changes and using a catheter.
Bladder issues are common symptoms in multiple sclerosis. Problems can include needing the toilet urgently and frequently, and having difficulty emptying your bladder. Treatment options include medication, using a catheter and lifestyle changes.
Some people with multiple sclerosis experience bowel accidents (incontinence). Treatment options include establishing a bowel management routine, strengthening your pelvic floor, retraining your bowel muscles, irrigation of the bowel and surgical options.
Bowel problems in multiple sclerosis can include constipation, bowel accidents and loose bowel movements. Treatment options include medication, transanal irrigation, pelvic floor exercises, biofeedback retraining and, in some cases, a colostomy. Changes to your diet and activity levels can make a real difference too.
Very occasionally, MS might damage the part of the brain responsible for control of breathing. This could result in breathing problems, such as having reduced lung capacity. Find out more in this A-Z entry.
If you're finding it hard to poo and not pooing as often as usual, you may be experiencing constipation. This is a common bowel symptom that can affect people with multiple sclerosis. Treatment options include lifestyle and dietary changes, laxatives, rectal stimulants and transanal irrigation.
Sexual difficulties, including difficulty reaching orgasm, are common in men with MS. Sexual issues often result from a complex interaction of physical, social, psychological and emotional elements. Read more in this A-Z entry.
Depression is different from low mood, it is persistent and can affect all aspects of your life, and is often related to anxiety and stress. Depression can be lonely and isolating, but it is a recognised and treatable condition.
Dizziness or lightheadness is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. If the sensation is more severe, it is referred to as vertigo. There are a number of approaches to managing dizziness including medication and exercise programmes.
Double vision (diplopia) can occur in multiple sclerosis when the nerve pathways that control eye movements are damaged.
Dysarthria is a speech disorder that can occur in multiple sclerosis. It is caused by weakness or lack of coordination in the muscles used in speaking.
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What is dysphasia? Dysphasia or aphasia is the medical term for difficulty in finding words or forming sentences. It can be a symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS). Find out more in this A-Z entry.
Erectile dysfunction (ED), sometimes called impotence, is a common symptom for men with multiple sclerosis (MS).
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Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of multiple sclerosis. MS fatigue is very different from the tiredness or exhaustion that people without MS may have and is out of all proportion to any activity you may have been doing.
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Foot drop, or dropped foot, is a symptom of multiple sclerosis caused by disruption in the nerve pathway between the legs and the brain. Find out how foot drop is treated in MS.
Although hearing loss or deafness is not a common symptom of multiple sclerosis, people can experience problems with hearing, such as tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or sudden hearing loss. Other hearing problems that can occur include the difficulty in understanding speech against a noisy background or being more sensitive to noise (hyperacusis).
A sudden, electric shock-like feeling that passes down the back of the neck and can reach the fingers and toes. Find out more about Lhermitte's sign, why it happens and how to manage it.
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What is the MS hug? Also called banding or girdling, the MS hug is a symptom of multiple sclerosis where you feel as if you have a tight band or pressure around your chest or ribs. Learn more about the MS hug in this A-Z entry.
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Nocturia is the need to wake up during the night to empty your bladder. It can be common in multiple sclerosis (MS), particularly if you need to use the toilet often during the day (urinary frequency) or if you have difficulty emptying your bladder.
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Nystagmus is the involuntary movement of the eyes, causing them to flick rapidly from side to side, up and down, or in a rotary manner. It can be a visual symptom of multiple sclerosis.
Optic neuritis is a common eye problem where inflammation or demyelination affects the optic nerve. It is a condition in its own right, but is also strongly associated with multiple sclerosis. Not everyone who experiences optic neuritis goes on to develop further symptoms of MS, but a significant proportion do.
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The two main types of pain in multiple sclerosis are nerve (neuropathic) pain and musculoskeletal (nociceptive) pain. Find out more about pain in this A-Z entry.
Paroxysmal is a term that describes the way that some symptoms of multiple sclerosis come on very suddenly, last only a few seconds or minutes and then disappear just as quickly. Your health professionals may call them episodic symptoms.
Poor posture is common for people with multiple sclerosis and can lead to problems including pain, pressure sores and reduced independence. We bring together information and practical tips to understand and improve your posture.
Some people with multiple sclerosis find that they experience sudden episodes of uncontrollable laughing and/or crying at inappropriate times, or which are unrelated, or out of proportion, to their current mood.
Living with MS can have a profound impact on sex drive and sexual desire. Factors including your MS symptoms, confidence and stress can reduce desire for sex.
Sexual difficulties – particularly erectile dysfunction and difficulty reaching orgasm – are common in men with MS. Sexual problems often result from a complex interaction of physical, social, psychological and emotional elements.
Sexual difficulties are common in women with MS. Not all sexual problems will be as a direct result of multiple sclerosis and often result from a complex interaction of physical, social, psychological and emotional elements.
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Poor sleep is common in people with multiple sclerosis, with about 50% of people with MS reported to experience some form of sleep disturbance. Despite this being well known, sleep disorders are under-diagnosed and under-treated in people with MS.
Spasticity and spasms are common symptoms of multiple sclerosis that may cause your muscles to feel stiff and heavy, or cause them to move unpredictably.
Problems with how you speak can be a symptom of multiple sclerosis for some people. MS speech disorders include slurring of speech and problems with the quality of your voice (dysarthria) and difficulty remembering specific words (dysphasia).
Why is my thinking affected by multiple sclerosis? How can I stay smart with MS? Find out more about cognitive problems in MS and our tips to manage them.
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Most people experience stress, whether they have MS or not. It's normal to feel anxious or worried from time to time but long-term stress can make your MS symptoms seem worse. Learning to manage your stress is an important part of taking control of your condition.
Difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia) is a possible symptom of multiple sclerosis. Support is available to help manage the effects of swallowing problems.
Some people with MS find that extremes of heat or cold make their MS symptoms worse. Here are some tips to help.
Cognitive problems are common in multiple sclerosis (MS). This means problems with your memory, attention span, planning, decision making, understanding or concentration.
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Tremor is involuntary, uncontrolled movements of parts of your body. You might experience tremor as twitching or jerking, or as shaky, trembling movements. In multiple sclerosis (MS), the most common type of tremor is intention tremor or cerebellar tremor.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a kind of nerve pain which can cause stabbing or burning sensations down the side of the face. Trigeminal neuralgia can be excruciatingly painful.
Uhthoff's phenomenon or Uhthoff's sign is the temporary worsening of MS symptoms caused by an increase in temperature. It is usually applied to optic neuritis and other visual symptoms but can also refer to motor or sensory symptoms.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a common bladder problem in multiple sclerosis. They are also known as water infections or cystitis. UTIs can cause you to feel a frequent urge to urinate and make urinating painful. Treatment is with a course of appropriate antibiotics.
Multiple sclerosis can affect vision in several ways. Problems with sight can be an early symptom of MS.
Visuospatial abilities refer to the way you relate visual information to the space around you. If you have visuospatial problems, you may find it hard to interpret what you see and act appropriately.
Stumbling or tripping may have been one of the first symptoms you noticed. Walking problems are common in MS, and have a variety of causes.
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Weakness in multiple sclerosis can be a direct result of MS, caused by poor transmission of messages by damaged nerves, mainly within the spinal cord. Read more about weakness in this A-Z entry.