Minor Symptoms Could Add up to Serious Illness

One of the biggest difficulties with some of the most serious diseases is that their symptoms may not be noticeable, don’t appear all at once, and easily could be attributed to just about any malady under the sun.

Take, for instance, the following symptoms. What might these indicate?

  • Fatigue
  • Balance problems
  • Tingling or numbness in the skin
  • Cognitive issues
  • Vision problems

Based on those symptoms, a doctor might start testing for a vitamin B12 deficiency, Lyme disease, a herniated disk, or other spinal problems.

But the symptoms also could indicate multiple sclerosis (MS).

MS is a progressive immune-mediated disorder. That means your immune system attacks parts of your body. In this case, it attacks myelin, the fatty substance that surrounds and insulates the nerve fibers—as well as the nerve fibers themselves and the specialized cells that make myelin. Over time, that damage leads to diminished function in the brain and spinal cord.

People with MS usually have their first symptoms between 20 and 40. There are four forms of MS that vary in the speed that they progress and the level of disability they cause. Symptoms could appear then vanish for a year, never return, or progress in just weeks or months.

That progression is unpredictable and, because there is no single test for MS, the diagnosis can be missed, delayed, or incorrect. It’s often a matter of you keeping track of your symptoms to help your physicians systematically rule out other diseases.

A closer look at those early symptoms:


  • Fatigue and weakness

Unexplained fatigue and weakness affect about 80 percent of people in the early stages of MS. It’s most noticeable in the legs at first.


  • Balance problems and dizziness

These symptoms, which doctors often refer to as gait problems, can make it increasingly difficult to stay mobile. They often occur when you stand up.


  • Tingling and numbness

MS affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, making them send wrong signals, conflicting signals, or no signals. Common sites of numbness are the face, arms, legs, and fingers.


  • Cognitive issues

About half of people with MS will develop issues with their cognitive function, which can include problems with memory, attention span, and speech. Depression and other emotional health problems are also common.

  • Vision problems

This is one of the most common symptoms because inflammation disrupts central vision and causes blurred, double, or loss of vision

Not everyone with MS will have the same symptoms, and different symptoms can appear during attacks and relapses. They could include hearing loss, seizure, uncontrollable shaking, breathing problems, slurred speech, and trouble swallowing.

The best advice is not to ignore the little health issues you encounter. Take a step back and look at your whole health picture with the help of your doctor.