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What Are the Possible Complications of Multiple Sclerosis?

written by: R. Elizabeth C. Kitchen • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/31/2011

Are you looking for information on multiple sclerosis complications? Here we will list and discuss them.

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    In addition to signs and symptoms, MS patients are at risk for multiple sclerosis complications. Multiple sclerosis attacks the nervous system and is an autoimmune disorder that cannot be cured. The complications associated with MS are typically related to the area where myelin and nerve damage has occurred.

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    Fatigue

    About 80 percent of MS patients experience fatigue. Because so many medical conditions cause fatigue, MS-based fatigue can often be very hard to diagnose at first. What sometimes sets it apart is that heat almost always makes it worse. For some patients, the fatigue is disabling.

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    Urinary and Bowel Dysfunction

    Frequency and urgency issues are common among MS patients. Involuntary loss of urine or incontinence are two complications that may occur, but not necessarily because of the MS. Medications or a less-active lifestyle may be to blame.

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    Spasticity and Loss of Mobility

    These two issues are what cause many MS patients to often stumble and be generally “clumsy”. Eventually, more severe disability may result forcing patients to need a wheelchair or other assistive device.

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    Cognitive Problems

    Cognitive problems involve problems such as difficulty concentrating, thought processing problems, memory issues and other problems related to judgment and mental awareness. These types of multiple sclerosis complications are rather widespread and most patients are affected to some degree.

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    Sexual Dysfunction

    If the part of the brain responsible for controlling the nerves that transmit nerve impulses to the sex organs or sexual function is attacked, sexual dysfunction may result. Other MS complications may also cause this complication, such as fatigue or depression or loss of mobility and spasticity.

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    Lung Problems

    If the part of the brain responsible for autonomic function control is attacked by multiple sclerosis, the patient is at risk for serious problems, including breathing problems.

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    Depression

    Many MS patients suffer from depression and this could be due to a variety of factors. Some of the medications used to treat MS may worsen depression symptoms. For other patients, the fact that they have an incurable, chronic disease may cause them to develop depression. In some cases, MS is the direct cause if the disease damages or attacks the part of the brain responsible for regulating emotion.

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    Speech Problems

    If the part of the brain responsible for verbal communication is attacked, speech problems may result. They may also result if the nerves responsible for transmitting communication between the brain and mouth are attacked. Speech problems may include cadence changes, nasal-sounding or slurred speech, or pauses between syllables. Some patients lose words mid-sentence.

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    Osteoporosis

    MS patients have a greater risk for osteoporosis, a condition characterized by thinning bones. The risk of this condition is increased due to the steroid drugs MS patients typically take during flares.

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    Resources

    Lazoff, M. MD. (2010). Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from eMedicine: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/793013-overview

    Mayo Clinic. (2010). Multiple Sclerosis. Retrieved on March 29, 2011 from the Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/multiple-sclerosis/DS00188