Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that interferes with the flow of information in the central nervous system. Researchers do not know what triggers MS, but once it is developed, the disease causes the immune system to destroy myelin, which insulates nerve fibers. Without enough myelin, it is difficult for the nerves to transmit and receive signals properly.

According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), at least two or three times more women than men get diagnosed with MS, and it may cause a variety of symptoms that can affect women differently than men. Although men and women with MS experience similar symptoms, factors such as menstruation, pregnancy and menopause may influence MS symptoms in women.

The symptoms of MS in women include:

Vision problems People with MS may develop vision problems because their optic nerves become inflamed. For several, a vision problem is the

first noticeable symptom of MS. It can cause a variety of vision problems including, blurred vision, poor colour vi- sion, painful eye movement, blindness in one eye, and a dark spot in the field of vision. While vision problems due to MS can be scary, most either resolve without treatment or are easily treated.

Numbness

Experiencing numbness in the face, body, arms, or legs is another common and early symptom of MS. The numbness can range from mild and hardly noticeable to severe enough that it influences with daily activities such as walking, or holding objects. Most peri- ods of numbness from MS resolve with- out medication.

Fatigue

Nearly 80% of people with MS experience fatigue or unexplained exhaustion. A type of fatigue that seems to be unique to MS is called lassitude. A person’s fatigue may be lassitude if it occurs daily, worsens as the day goes on, happens in the morning—even after a good sleep, worsens with heat or humidity, and interferes with daily activity.

Hormonal effects

Menstruation: There is evidence to suggest that MS can affect women differently than men due to hormonal changes. The NMSS states that some studies have found that women with MS have worse symptoms within a week of starting their period.

Pregnancy: Researchers have found that pregnancy can reduce the risk of MS symptom flare-ups in the second and third trimesters. Pregnancy has a protective effect against MS by raising the levels of compounds that help reduce inflammation and the effects of the disease. However, some of the medications that people use for MS are not safe to take during pregnancy, and can actually worsen symptoms.

Menopause: MS symptoms may worsen after menopause because declining estrogen levels adversely affect disease progression. However, it is difficult to tell whether MS symptoms worsen be- cause of menopause or just as a natural result of aging or the progression of the condition.

Other common symptoms include pain (especially in women), cognitive changes, depression, bladder and bowel problems, muscle weakness, muscle stiffness and spasms, vertigo, and difficulty walking.

If you are experiencing concerning symptoms, you should see your health-care professional for a proper diagnosis.

Source: Medical News Today

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