I’m writing this post for anyone that might find it via Google in the future. Looking back, I can see a lot of early signs of my MS, but because I didn’t pay enough attention and couldn’t find anything about them, I ignored them. Would I have gotten treatment sooner? I dunno, but it would have been nice to have the option.
Keep in mind that MS is a disease with an enormous variation. It affects different people in different ways. These are the things that happened to me in the years leading up to my diagnosis, when it couldn’t be ignored any longer. Having these things doesn’t mean you have MS of course, but they were early indicators for me.
Tremors while yawning. I noticed 4 or 5 years ago that when I yawned, my arms and hands would shake. It seemed a little odd, but harmless at the time. Now, I know it is a symptom of screwed up reflexes, and that is going to point towards some sort of neurological issue.
Leg stiffness. 5 or 6 years ago my legs started to lock up on me in the morning. It didn’t hurt, but it would prevent me from doing anything until I loosened up. Here’s the way it worked, I woke up, decided to move and then BLAM! my legs would go rigid. It would last about 30 seconds and then everything was fine again. A few years later this would happen to me any time I sat down for a while. I chalked all of this up to getting older and stiffer. It never really bothered me, but it was odd. Now I know that this is called spasticity and once again, points towards some underlying neurological issue.
Weak legs. The first time I noticed this was about 5 or 6 years ago. It was right after a hurricane (can’t remember the name) and my mother;s place had been hit fairly hard. I went down there to help with the clean up. One of the things we needed to do was to find and bring back all of the sections of fence that had been strewn everywhere. My stepfather and I would wander around looking for pieces and then carry them back. It was hard work, but nothing too outrageous. I was able to do this for, oh I dunno, an hour or so when my legs turned to absolute jelly. This wasn’t a normal tired feeling, this was “about to fall over” kind of feeling. I chalked it up to being out of shape, which I was. It bugged me a little since it was so unusual, but I had a handy explanation and let it go. This happened again 3 years later on an extended hike in Yemen. Once again, it was a longish hike, maybe 12 kilometers or so, but nothing too bad. Yes, there was some minor climbing, as in there was a grade, but really nothing any sort of person in reasonable health couldn’t handle. Once again, I started out fine, but about 2/3 of the way through, my legs totally gave out on me. I was wobbly legged and unbalanced for the rest of the hike. In both cases, once I sat down for a half hour or so, I was fine. There was no soreness, or even tightness the next day. This is not normal. If you overextend your muscles, you should expect to feel the burning sensation from all of the lactic acid building up. You should also feel the effects over the next several days. I had neither, if anything, my legs felt a little numb. I have no idea of the mechanism behind this, but it is a common feature of my life now, and it is consistent with having MS.
Numbness. I had been working in retail for 7 years or so when I noticed that there were times when I felt that my feet were numb. Looking back, it wasn’t really numbness, it was loss of proprioception. Doctors test for this in a variety of ways, but the most descriptive is that I could no longer feel vibrations against my foot or legs. In day to day sensations, it feels like the inside of my leg or foot is numb, like I can’t feel the muscles in them. Once again, I assumed that since I was on my feet for so long, and for so many years, reduced sensation was a normal thing. It’s not. Nowadays, the loss has progressed such that I don’t actually know where my feet are or what position my legs are in. It is fairly common for me to wonder why I can’t move my leg only to realize my other leg is on top of it.
Those were the first symptoms that I had for MS. They started to present themselves about 5 years before I was diagnosed. It is possible that if I had pursued any of these things that I could have prevented further loss. The punchline of this whole thing is that those things are not normal, you should at the very least have your GP do a neurologic exam (test reflexes, etc.) if not see a neurologist if you have any of these issues. All of these started as intermittent things and gradually over several years became more pronounced. Just get checked out, there’s no downside…