Multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord, progressing through three phases. In the high-risk phase, the early signs of the disease are detected. During the remitting-relapsing phase, symptoms come and go, while the progressive phase features continued symptoms with no breaks. As your condition develops, multiple sclerosis symptoms worsen, becoming more debilitating later in life than when they first appeared.

Though multiple sclerosis has no cure, rehabilitation therapy improves coping skills and helps you maintain independence as long as possible. Treatment includes physical, occupational, and speech therapies, cognitive rehab, and vocational rehab when required. Your MS team will tailor the program to match your current stage and symptoms. Learning what signs to watch for is vital to ensure you receive the proper care when needed.

Doctor checking multiple sclerosis symptoms of patient through X-Ray.

Most Common Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms and How They Progress

Several symptoms are associated with MS, but what you experience differs from person to person. The severity also varies, depending on the extent of the nerve fiber damage from the disease. Of course, knowing what to watch for helps to determine if it’s time to seek medical attention to stop it from progressing.

The most common signs include numbness, weakness, or tingling in the limbs and electric-shock sensations with neck movements. Coordination issues, reduced mobility, unexplained pain, reduced sexual functions, and mood disturbances may also occur.


Experts state that fatigue is one of the most common multiple sclerosis symptoms, reported by approximately 75% of patients. It also causes the most problems since it affects a person’s ability to function at work and home. Fatigue is often misdiagnosed as depression or lack of motivation and is frequently overlooked as a sign of the disease.

For most people, fatigue is mild in the early stages of MS, so may not be noticed. As the condition progresses, it becomes more severe, altering your usual routine. Even simple tasks exhaust you, regardless of your sleep habits. Sometimes fatigue occurs without warning or progressively worsens throughout the day.

Bladder and bowel dysfunction

Recent studies state MS causes lesions in the central nervous system, disrupting pathways between the brain, bladder, and bowel. Those alterations could cause a more frequent or urgent need to pee, urinary retention, difficulty beginning urination, or incontinence.

When the bladder and bowel are hard to control, embarrassing accidents occur. Those experiencing these multiple sclerosis symptoms often isolate themselves to avoid discomfort and shame when losing control of these functions.

Visual changes

Multiple sclerosis may cause various vision problems. The most common is optic neuritis, resulting from an inflamed optic nerve. You may experience pain, blurry vision, or vision color alterations.

Diplopia is reported by a third of MS patients. Small eye movement changes cause double vision, often when looking in certain directions.

Nystagmus causes involuntary eye movements. Though they may not affect vision, the movements are impossible to control. When noticed, objects seem to move or wiggle, often resulting in vertigo.

Cognitive changes

Cognitive changes are one of the most debilitating multiple sclerosis symptoms. The most common cognition issues include reduced processing speeds, memory issues, speech problems, and visuospatial abilities. Many patients experience difficulty choosing words, multi-tasking, using motor skills, or carrying on a conversation.

Cognitive alterations can be an initial symptom of multiple sclerosis, with over half of those affected experiencing some degree of cognitive change. For most individuals, these changes are mild and typically affect only one or two areas of cognition. However, for a smaller number of people with MS, cognitive changes can be more severe, impacting their performance at work or school.

Early identification, evaluation, and management of cognitive changes are crucial. These changes can greatly impact your quality of life, relationships, daily activities, and work performance. Initial signs of brain dysfunction may be mild and unnoticeable, but overtime, the symptoms will most likely deteriorate and become apparent.


  1. Oliver Tobin, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., Ph.D., Symptoms & causes of multiple sclerosis,the%20rest%20of%20your%20body
  2. Tiffany J. Braley, Rondald D. Chervin, Aug. 1, 2010, Fatigue in Multiple Sclerosis: Mechanisms, Evaluation, and Treatment
  3. National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Fatigue and multiple sclerosis
  4. NCBI, Sept. 19, 2019, The frequency of bowel and bladder problems in multiple sclerosis and its relation to fatigue: A single centre
  5. MS Society, MS eye and vision problems,when%20you%20move%20your%20eyes
  6. NCBI, Feb. 6, 2018, Cognition in multiple sclerosis,verbal%20fluency%2C%20and%20visuospatial%20analysis
This content comprises informative and educational resources only and can not be considered as a substitute for professional health or medical guidance. Reliance on any information provided in this article is solely at your own risk. If you have any inquiries or apprehensions about your medical condition or health goals, talk with a licensed physician or healthcare provider.