When it comes to MS symptoms, there is a real variety in what individuals experience. This is one of the reasons why making an MS diagnosis is so challenging. Its symptoms can look different from person to person. No two people have the same MS disease course. This can make it hard to understand exactly how the condition impacts someone. Its uniqueness acts as a detriment at times when trying to explain or educate others about MS. It is assumed that symptoms will look the same and that outcomes will match, but this is not always the case.
One of the most common symptoms of MS can be cognitive challenges. This wasn’t always recognized as a common MS symptom. But more recently it’s become an issue that is acknowledged more often. For those living with MS who may experience cognitive issues, they question whether this is something that can be caused by the MS itself. Unfortunately, the disease can impact parts of cognition. This can include memory, judgment, problem solving, the ability to focus and other processes. Compared to other MS symptoms, cognitive changes are not always easy to ‘see.’ This sadly makes for challenges in understanding the symptom. It’s hard to explain and justify MS issues to others when they’re not as easily seen. But that doesn’t make them any less significant.
If individuals notice changes in their cognition, or if others around them are noticing differences, it may help to have a conversation with the doctor about this. Changes in cognition tied to MS may indicate different things. A new symptom, signs of a possible relapse, or that there’s been changes in MS disease activity. However, sometimes this may not be directly related to MS if other factors are involved. General life stressors, medication side effects, problems sleeping, anxiety, fatigue, or other health issues could have effects on cognition as well. That’s why following up with the doctor, and also, a neuropsychology specialist, if needed, can help. This type of specialist focuses on how the brain and nervous system can impact cognition and behavior. They can help to evaluate the cognitive issues and work to determine a treatment plan to help address them.
It’s important to know that you’re not alone in experiencing these types of “hidden” MS symptoms. And even though no two people’s course of MS look the same, there are many who experience similar types of issues and can help to validate what’s happening because of MS. Just because some things aren’t as easy to see, doesn’t mean they’re not there.