According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS), as many as 400,000 Americans are living with multiple sclerosis (MS), and nearly 200 people are diagnosed with the disease each week. MS is classified as an autoimmune disease, meaning the body's own defense system attacks the central nervous system, with resulting symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Could It Be MS?

MS is a difficult disease to diagnose because its early symptoms may be insignificant and erratic. In addition, other diseases can exhibit similar warning signs, and there's no one definitive laboratory test to confirm the existence of MS. Therefore, the diagnosis must be made on the basis of both a neurological examination and a history of symptoms, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians.

If you think you may have the disease, it's important to speak with your doctor about your concerns. Here are some signs and symptoms to look for:

  • Clumsiness/loss of coordination
  • Visual impairment
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Inability to control bladder/bowels
  • Weakness
  • Numbness
  • Gaps in memory
  • Vertigo

Though it is important to notify a health professional if you experience any of these symptoms, it's especially vital if you're experiencing changes in sight or painful eye movements. This could be associated with optic neuritis, which is a very common early sign of MS.

Also keep in mind that having one or even a few of these symptoms doesn't necessarily mean you have MS. A sudden appearance of symptoms signaling central nervous system damage may lead doctors to suspect the condition, but only careful examination by a medical professional can confirm this diagnosis.