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Multiple Sclerosis
Signs and Symptoms

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis depend on which particular pathway of nerve fiber is damaged. Tingling, numbness, sensations of tightness or weakness may result when myelin in the spinal cord is damaged. If nerve fibers to the bladder are affected, urinary incontinence may occur. Likewise, damage to the cerebellum portion of the brain may result in imbalance or a lack of coordination. MS patients can have a wide range of symptoms, depending on where the damage occurs in the central nervous system.

Because MS can cause a wide variety of symptoms in different people, doctors frequently struggle to diagnose the disease. However, common symptoms of MS include changes in sensation or sensory symptoms such as tingling and numbness, and changes in muscle function or motor symptoms such as difficulty walking, stiffness or tremors.

Some common symptoms are:

  • Clumsiness or weakness
  • Difficulty walking or maintaining balance
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Eye problems such as double vision or uncontrolled eye movements
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control
  • Stiffness
  • Tremors
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Depression or emotional changes
  • Mild intellectual change such as memory problems
  • Sexual problems such as difficulty reaching orgasm, lack of vaginal sensation or erectile dysfunction

Symptoms usually appear in people between 20 and 40 years of age.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Neurology and Neurosurgery

Multiple Sclerosis
1500 Owens St., Suite 320
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-2069
Fax: (415) 353-2633
Appointment information