Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) is hard enough, but learning a whole new vocabulary to understand it can be even more overwhelming. Don’t worry: We’re here to help you decode some of the lingo.
Below is a list of words that people sometimes use to define their MS symptoms. Read on to get a better grasp on informal MS terminology.
Fatigue is one of the most common and prominent symptoms of MS. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, it affects about 80 percent of people with MS.
For many people, vision problems are the first signs of MS.
Inflammation of the optic nerve (optic neuritis) can cause blurred vision, eye pain, and blind spots. Colors may appear dimmer than normal. Other common eye problems include double vision and involuntary eye movement (nystagmus).
MS can make it difficult to:
pay attention or concentrate
find the words to speak fluently
According to a 2018 study, cognitive problems affect anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of those with MS.
If you have brain fog, your thoughts are cloudy and you can’t think clearly. Everything seems surreal and fuzzy.
Brain fog is also called:
Slurred speech is often caused by the loss of coordination of the tongue, lip, cheek, and mouth muscles. Along with slurred speech, people with MS may also have trouble swallowing.
If you’re loopy, you’re feeling tired and as if you were drunk.
If you feel as if your legs aren’t working correctly, as if you were drunk, then you have jelly legs, Jell-O legs, or noodle legs.
People who experience this sensation may also describe themselves as tipsy.
This term describes weaving from side to side as you walk.
When you have MS, your legs sometimes become wobbly, weak, and tired. You may lose control of them, causing you to “bounce” from one side of the hallway to another, like a pinball in a pinball machine.
This term refers to stiffness in the legs.
If you have foot drop, weak muscles make it hard for you to lift the front part of your foot or feet as you walk. Foot drop is a common symptom of MS.
Chronic or acute pain is now considered a major MS symptom. Shooting pains are usually acute, meaning they come on suddenly and intensely and then disappear.
Lhermitte’s sign is a type of shooting pain that originates in the back of the neck and often “shoots” down the spine and sometimes out to the legs and arms. Many people describe the sensation as an electric shock.
All of these terms refer to shooting pains. Learn more about them here.
The term MS hug describes a constricting pressure around the chest or waist area.
The pain level can range from annoying to extreme and is often accompanied by a burning sensation. This feeling is caused by spasms of the muscles between your ribs.
The MS hug is also called:
the MS girdle
Spasticity is a common symptom of MS. It can occur in any area of the body, but usually affects the legs. Your muscles may simply feel tight, or they can be intensely painful. There are two types of spasticity:
Flexor. This affects the back of the leg (hamstrings) and the upper thigh (hip flexors).
Extensor. This affects the front of the upper thigh (quadriceps) and inside of the upper leg (abductors).
People with spasticity may describe themselves as spazzy.
If you’re twitchy, you experience twitching from spasticity.
Because MS affects the central nervous system (CNS), an overall feeling of “pins and needles” is quite common. This sensation is generally felt in the limbs.