Multiple Sclerosis is primarily a disease of the spine and brain, causing a gradual loss of myelin sheaths in your central nervous system. However, it can affect many other parts of your body too. Here are seven ways Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can affect your body.
1. Nervous System Effects
In MS lesions on spine and the brain are formed when the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths of nerves in your brain and spinal cords. It’s a disease of the central nervous system, which means some of the most common symptoms are neurological. They include brain fog, coordination issues, tingling sensations in various parts of the body and intense fatigue. You may also experience headaches, issues with vision, hearing and breathing, speech issues and trouble controlling their movements.
2. Immune System Effects
MS is an autoimmune disease, meaning it’s caused by your immune system mistakenly targeting the nerves of your central nervous system and attacking them. While the most common effects of MS are neurological, it can have some of the same effects as other autoimmune diseases too. The pain experienced by patients can be neurological but it may also be caused by the inflammatory effect of the autoimmune response in the central nervous system, for example. Your immune system may also be weakened by certain treatments meant to dampen that autoimmune response.
3. Circulatory System Effects
Typically, MS is not a direct cause of circulatory system issues or symptoms. Instead, it and the ways in which people react to it can contribute to the development of or worsen various circulatory conditions. People with MS are at higher risk of strokes, heart attacks and developing blood clots. The pain, fatigue and trouble with coordination and controlling movement can make it difficult to exercise, which can also increase your risk. In some cases, MS weakens the muscles in the chest, which can cause difficulty breathing and maintaining healthy oxygen levels.
4. Psychological Effects
There are several common psychological effects of MS, both direct and indirect. There is a direct correlation between MS and cognitive dysfunction due to the damage to nerves in the central nervous system. Cognitive issues range from mild to debilitating and can include effects on your planning and decision-making skills, your ability to concentrate and pay attention and your memory. Indirect effects of MS can include depression and anxiety revolving around your diagnosis, lifestyle changes, quality of life, treatment plans or flare-ups.
5. Skeletal System Effects
There are two main ways MS affects the skeletal system. It can directly affect it by impacting your coordination and balance. Unsteady gait, difficulty controlling your movements, difficulty balancing and muscle weakness can all increase your risk of falling, which can increase the risk of breaking a bone or otherwise injuring yourself. The other main concern in regards to your skeletal system is an increased risk of osteoporosis, or weakening in the bones. These risks are the result of steroid use to treat the disease and inactivity due to fatigue or other symptoms.
6. Reproductive System Effects
Women who have MS can still safely conceive a pregnancy. However, there are other risks and effects related to the reproductive system. Some people with MS find it difficult to initiate or accept sexual intimacy due to symptoms of the disease such as pain or fatigue. Sexual dysfunction is also a relatively common symptoms of the nerve damage that occurs as a result of MS. Women are at increased risk of flare-ups postpartum.
7. Digestive System Effects
Digestive symptoms are incredibly common in people with MS. They can be a result of the disease itself or of certain courses of treatment. Digestive symptoms typically worsen and the risk of developing them increases as the disease progresses. There are a few very common digestive symptoms related to MS, such as heartburn, bladder and bowel issues, trouble swallowing, bloating, stomach or abdominal pain and gas.
Everyone diagnosed with MS is likely going to have a different experience with the disease. Because it can affect so many systems in your body, no two people will have the exact same symptoms in the same places. Always discuss your diagnosis and symptoms with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment and management.