Managing MS

MS symptoms and quality of life

MS symptoms and quality of life

After you’re diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), your doctor will regularly monitor how your brain is functioning to get a better understanding of how your MS may be progressing overtime. But this alone doesn't provide a full picture of life with the condition...

"For everybody it's not about how many brain lesions you've got or how this MS is manifesting itself on scans and MRIs. For all of us it's about our lives, it's about our identities, our relationships, and howwe feel about our ability to work and our futures. They're the things that are really important to us."

Living with MS

You may feel okay most of the time and that your symptoms come and go. Or you might find your symptoms aren’t that bad and you can make adjustments to your life to cope with them – but that shouldn’t be the case. You shouldn’t have to compromise your lifestyle or the things you enjoy doing because of your condition. Explore our talk to your doctor guide to support you in having conversations with your neurologist about any compromises you may currently be making.

You may also find that over time some of your symptoms remain or get worse which unfortunately can lead to permanent disability. That’s why it’s important to talk to your doctor and think about your treatment options as early as possible.

Even though you feel your MS isn’t having too much of an impact, you may be making bigger adjustments because of your symptoms than you realise. There’s a wide range of MS symptoms that could have a disabling impact on your life and these go far beyond problems with mobility.

There are a wide range of MS symptoms beyond mobility problems that can have a disabling impact on people's lives.

Which three groups of symptoms affect your life the most?

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    Intimacy symptoms such as sexual dysfunction and bladder and bowel problems canbe an embarrassing topic but the impact they can have on people's lives, self-esteem and relationships can't be ignored.


    We asked 1,075 people living with relapse-remitting MS how intimate symptoms affect their lives.

    Almost half said that they didn’t have the same sex drives as before their diagnosis.

    More than 1/3 of people felt that urinary problems associated with their MS are a factor in the decisions they make when planning to leave the house.

    MS Clinic Director

    Dr Ann Bass

    Of all the people living with MS, approximately half will develop problems with cognition at some point in their life. These include problems with thinking, memory, attention, concentration and problem solving. This can have an impact on daily life, social life and relationships.

    We asked 1,075 people living with relapsing-remitting MS about their problems with thinking and memory.

    Replace the missing puzzle pieces to find out what they said...

    Almost 35% of people feel they have difficulty taking part in group discussions.

    42% of people said they are easily overwhelmed by everyday tasks.

    I felt that my brain was no longer functioning properly and that there was something wrong with me. I feel less efficient, which is something hard to live with in today's society - a society strongly focused on performance.


    Living with MS

    Having problems with your eyesight can be frightening. In MS, vision problems can include:

    Click the symptoms to experience them
    Click and drag to tune the TV

    Symptoms affecting mobility can make life particularly difficult, whether cooking your favourite meal or travelling to town. They can include problems with balance, dizziness, muscle weakness, spasms and stiffness.

    Problems with mobility can affect people in a number of ways as they can lead to a loss of confidence, pain, injury, interrupted sleep and in some cases a loss of independence.

    Click on the orange arrows to reveal how problems with mobility can impact someone's life...

    It can be easy to focus on the physical impact of MS, but MS can also have a significant effect on emotional health. This can mean changes in your mood and the onset of depression and anxiety. But people may dismiss these problems as a reaction to MS diagnosis, not realising they can actually be caused by the condition itself.

    When we asked 1,075 people living with relapsing-remitting MS, nearly half said that they find mood swings to be limiting to their daily activities.

    Listen to the audio of professor Bart van Wijmeersch discussing the emotional impact of disability.

    Professor Bart van Wijmeersch

    Professor Bart van Wijmeersch

    Discussing the emotional impact of disabillity

    I was massively affected by depression after I was diagnosed. I struggled to complete any University work, eventually leading me to drop out for a year.


    Living with MS


    Between 40-50% of people living with MS experience speech difficulties at one point on their MS journey. People may find these come and go or that they appear during a relapse. They include problems with slurred or slower speech, a weaker voice and struggling to find the right words.

    There can be much misunderstanding in society surrounding speech problems and this can make it hard for people to be heard and to socialise.

    40-50% fact

    At least a third of people with multiple sclerosis (MS) probably experience some changes in their swallowing at some time, making it difficult to eat and in some cases difficult to have a healthy diet.

    Find out more about speech and swallowing problems and tips on how to manage these symptoms here.

    It's hard for people, especially speech problems that can make people think you're drunk.


    Living with MS

    Alarm clock

    Pain and fatigue are both invisible symptoms, but the significant impact they can have on people's lives is clear to see. Pain is a common symptom for people living with MS and can be one of the most difficult.

    Pain can be experienced by people in different ways. For example, some might feel crushing, squeezing, cold, hot, stabbing, burning or tightness.

    Out of 1,075 people living with relapsing-remitting MS, more than 75% feel fatigue is limiting on their daily activities, even when they get enough sleep.

    Hear what Paula has to say about her problems with fatigue...



    Discussing the impact of pain and fatique

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