MS in Women: Common Symptoms
Women and Multiple Sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is generally considered an autoimmune condition that affects the brain and spinal cord of the central nervous system. The disease affects women more often than men.
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, women may be three times more likely to have MS than men. The disease can also cause symptoms specific to women. But women and men share many of the same MS symptoms.
Affecting Both Women and Men Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
In general, MS symptoms are the same for both men and women. But symptoms vary for everyone, depending on the location and severity of nerve damage from inflammation.
Some of the most common MS symptoms are listed below.
Multiple Sclerosis Muscle Symptoms
In MS, the body’s immune cells attack the nervous system. This can occur in the brain, spinal cord, or optic nerves. As a result, people with MS may experience muscle-related symptoms including:
- muscle spasms
- lack of coordination
- Difficulty moving arms and legs
- Unsteady gait and difficulty walking
- Weakness or tremors in one or both arms or legs
- Eye disorder symptoms
Vision problems can occur in men and women with MS. These may include:
- Partial or complete loss of vision, usually in one eye
- pain when moving your eyes
- double vision
- blurred vision
- involuntary eye movements
- More general eye discomfort and visual difficulties
All of these eye symptoms are due to MS lesions in the brain responsible for controlling and coordinating vision.
Multiple Sclerosis Bowel and Bladder Symptoms
Both bladder dysfunction and bowel symptoms are common in MS. Dysfunction in the nervous system pathways that control your bladder and bowel muscles cause these problems.
Possible bladder and bowel symptoms include:
- Problem starting to urinate
- Frequent urge or need to urinate
- bladder infections
- urine or feces leakage
Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms of numbness or pain
Numbness, tingling, and pain are common for many people with MS. People often experience this symptom on the body or specific limbs.
You may notice numbness or a burning sensation, such as “pins and stings.” According to research, more than half of all people with MS may have some form of pain during their illness.
While some types of pain are directly related to MS, other types of pain can be byproducts of how MS affects the body. For example, imbalances caused by walking problems can put stress on your joints.
Multiple Sclerosis Problems with Speech and Swallowing
People with MS may have trouble speaking. Common speech problems include:
- Fuzzy or poorly spoken speech
- Loss of sound control
- slower speech rate
- Changes in speech quality, such as a harsh or breathless voice
MS lesions can also affect swallowing, causing chewing and moving food to the back of your mouth. The lesions can also affect your body’s ability to move food up your esophagus and into your stomach.
Multiple Sclerosis Effects on the Brain and Nerves
A number of other brain and nerve symptoms can result from MS. These may include:
- decreased attention span
- Loss of memory
- poor judgment
- problem reasoning or problem solving
- Depression results from damage to brain areas involved in emotional control or from the stress of illness.
- Dizziness, balance problems, or lightheadedness (a spinning sensation)
In Multiple Sclerosis Sexual Issues
Both men and women can experience sexual dysfunction as a symptom of MS. Problems can include:
- decreased sex drive
- reduced genital sensation
- Fewer and less intense orgasms
Additionally, women may experience low vaginal lubrication or pain during intercourse.
Women’s Multiple Sclerosis symptoms
The symptoms of MS that primarily affect women appear to be related to hormone levels.
Some researchers think that having low testosterone levels may play a role. Others think fluctuations in female hormones may play a role.
More research is needed to determine the true causes of these symptom differences.
The main symptoms that affect women more than men include menstrual problems, pregnancy-related symptoms, and menopause issues.
Multiple Sclerosis and Menstrual Problems
Research has shown that some women have increased MS symptoms during their periods. This may be due to a drop in estrogen levels during this time.
Worsening symptoms for study participants included weakness, imbalance, depression, and fatigue.
In Multiple Sclerosis Pregnancy-Related Symptoms
Some good news for women with MS: Research has found that MS does not affect fertility. This means that MS cannot stop you from getting pregnant and giving birth to a healthy child.
In even better news, for most women, MS symptoms actually stabilize or improve during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. However, postpartum recurrence is common.
Multiple Sclerosis and Menopause
Some studies have found that some women have worsening MS symptoms after menopause. As with menstrual symptoms, it can occur due to a drop in estrogen levels caused by menopause.
Some studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helps relieve these symptoms for postmenopausal women.
However, HRT has also been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke. If you have questions about whether HRT can help you manage your postmenopausal MST symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Multiple Sclerosis How to Control Symptom?
Although women are more at risk from MS, many of the MS symptoms experienced by both sexes are the same. The main differences in MS symptoms seem to be influenced by hormone levels.
But no matter what your MS symptoms are, there may be steps to help you manage your symptoms and feel better. Follow these with a proper diet, exercise, do not smoke and drink excessively, and take long-term medication for MS.
Work with your doctor for guidance on lifestyle changes and treatments that can help you manage your MS symptoms and feel better.
Source: Healthline, MS in Women: Common Symptoms, 2017.