Early multiple sclerosis symptoms: Restless leg syndrome, numbness and weakness

By: Emily Lunardo | Brain Function | Monday, October 19, 2015 - 02:00 PM

Early multiple sclerosis symptoms: Restless leg syndrome, numbness and weaknessSensory problems, including restless leg syndrome (RLS), numbness and weakness, are the first sign of multiple sclerosis (MS). Sensory problems can occur in 20 to 50 percent of individuals with multiple sclerosis with a condition known as paresthesia. The condition can be caused by prolonged sitting or standing or remaining in a certain position for a long period of time.

Restless leg syndrome is a condition that makes the legs feel tingling when they are at rest and creates an overwhelming sensation to move them. Studies have shown that individuals with MS are three times more likely to experience restless leg syndrome compared to the general population. Cervical cord damage plays a large role in the development of RLS and can occur more in those with multiple sclerosis.

Feelings and sensations of restless leg syndrome include crawling underneath the skin, tingling, burning or creeping. Symptoms may be relieved with movement of the legs, but this relief is temporary. Furthermore, it’s impossible to keep your legs moving constantly, which makes the hours during sleep the most difficult. Many individuals suffer from sleep deprivation when they have RLS.

Numbness, as well, is a common sensory problem in those with multiple sclerosis. When the nerve’s transmitted sensations are not conducted properly it causes lack of sensation in the affected area. Numbness is considered more of an annoyance than disabling and usually occurs in small locations for those with MS. There are cases, though, where numbness can affect a person’s ability to function.

Weakness in multiple sclerosis can be caused two different ways: It can result from spasms or fatigue or it can result from damaged nerves. The first cause of weakness can result in loss of strength or loss of control of extremities. Due to the second cause of weakness signals may become disrupted and not reach the extremities.

Restless leg syndrome and multiple sclerosis connection

Cases of restless leg syndrome in multiple sclerosis patients greatly vary from 13.3 percent to 65.1 percent. These numbers are still larger than rates of restless leg syndrome in the general population. Multiple sclerosis patients with RLS rate higher on the Expanded Disability Status Scale compared to MS patients without RLS. RLS can negatively impact a person’s sleep and cause further complications such as worsened fatigue and greater inflammation, which can contribute to pain. Further research will be conducted to better understand the connection between RLS and MS and provide more effective treatment.

Multiple sclerosis and fatigue

Multiple sclerosis and fatigueFatigue can be seen in all stages of multiple sclerosis but is not related to the severity or duration of the disease. Fatigue can become quite severe and interfere with normal daily functioning.

Fatigue in MS can be caused by the following:

  • General activation of multiple sclerosis
  • More parts of the brain are used in people with MS – they are working harder
  • Fatigue is related to reduced electrical transmission signals to the brain

There are two types of fatigue in multiple sclerosis. The first being general tiredness, which can be caused by a lack of sleep and can worsen as the day progresses. The second is muscular fatigue, where repeated activity causes the muscles to become weak and tired.

Other common and less common symptoms of MS

Aside from numbness, weakness, restless leg syndrome and fatigue there are numerous symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis – some more common than others.

Common symptoms of MS

  • Walking difficulties – weakness, spasticity, loss of balance, sensory deficits and fatigue can all be contributing factors
  • Spasticity – feelings of stiffness and involuntary spasms, common in legsOther common and less common symptoms of MS
  • Vision problems – blurred vision, poor contrast or color vision, pain in eye movement
  • Dizziness and vertigo – unbalanced, feeling that your surroundings are moving
  • Bladder problems – can occur in 80 percent of patients
  • Sexual problems – sexual response can become negatively affected
  • Bowel problems – constipation or loss of control of bowels
  • Pain – can occur in a variety of ways
  • Cognitive changes – ability to learn, memory, problem-solving and attention may all become impaired
  • Emotional changes – changes in reactions to stress, mood swings, irritability
  • Depression – clinical depression is quite often seen in those with MS

Less common symptoms of MS

  • Speech problems – slurring, loss of volume, stuttering
  • Swallowing problems – dysphagia
  • Tremor – uncontrollable shaking
  • Seizures – occur in some
  • Breathing problems – occur when chest muscles become weak
  • Itching – pruritus, sensations of pins and needles
  • Headache – frequent or chronic
  • Hearing loss – can occur in six percent of patients

Restless leg syndrome as a symptom for other diseases

Aside from multiple sclerosis, restless leg syndrome can be a symptom of other diseases as well. A recent study revealed that restless leg syndrome can be a symptom of heart problems, kidney problems and stroke.

For the study 3,700 veterans with RLS were observed along with 3,700 healthy participants as controls. Both groups were followed for eight years. Researchers were specifically looking for outcomes of stroke and heart and kidney problems.

By the end of the study researchers found that individuals with RLS were four times more likely to develop stroke or heart disease and three times more likely to develop kidney disease. The researchers noted that this is merely an association and does not reveal cause and effect. The researchers also believe that RLS may occur due to an underlying medical condition.

Related Reading:

Restless leg syndrome is symptom for stroke, heart and kidney disease: Study

Restless leg syndrome has been found to increase the risk of stroke, heart disease and kidney disease. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes a person to feel an overwhelming urge to move their legs when in an inclined position (laying down). Tingling, aching and itching sensations may occur as well. Continue reading…

Salt intake may increase risk of multiple sclerosis

New research from the University of Vermont suggests that in mice models, salt intake may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). With the use of three genetically different groups of mice, researchers conducted their study. Continue reading…


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