A Chameleon-Like Disease

Here’s what you should watch for

You’d think a disease that affects the central nervous system would get your attention fairly quickly. But multiple sclerosis (MS) has a wide array of symptoms that can lead people to ignore early signs. The result: Important early treatments are delayed or don’t occur at all.

MS is a neurodegenerative autoimmune disease in which the fatty covering that surrounds and protects nerve fibers becomes increasingly damaged. As the covering is harmed or destroyed, it affects nerve impulses to and from the brain and spinal cord.

“MS is like a chameleon — its signs and symptoms are so varied that it should be part of each clinician’s differential diagnosis,” says Anjali Shah, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation who specializes in treating patients with MS.

Though no one knows what causes MS, here are some symptoms to watch for:
Common MS symptoms:

  • blurred or painful vision
  • numbness
  • tingling
  • burning in the arms or legs
  • fatigue
  • double vision
  • bowel or bladder dysfunction
  • and cognitive defects.

Did you know?

MS is more common in women than men. It appears more frequently in Caucasians than in Hispanics or African–Americans and is rare among Asians and other groups.