Does multiple sclerosis impact life expectancy

When should you suspect multiple sclerosis?

Symptoms produced by multiple sclerosis (MS) vary and can often be confused with a number of other health conditions. If you’ve been experiencing symptoms and suspect MS this blog provides information about symptoms and details of how the diagnosis process works.

When do people get diagnosed?

Most people are diagnosed with MS between the ages of 20-40, however, because symptoms confusion with it can sometime take a little longer to reach a diagnosis. Around 7,000 people are diagnosed with the condition in the UK each year.

It’s also worth noting that multiple sclerosis is more common in women than men, which you can read more about in our blog on factors that contribute to MS development (just click the highlighted text if you’d like to learn why this is).

The most common multiple sclerosis symptoms

Although the multiple sclerosis symptoms experienced can vary from person to person, there are some that are more common than others.

Optic neuritis

This visual symptom is caused by inflammation or demyelination of the optic nerve. Vision is often one of the first things noticed by people experiencing MS symptoms. You might experience blurred sight and even a reduction in how you perceive colours.

Brain fog

Around half of people living with multiple sclerosis will experience some kind of cognitive impairment at some point in their life, which can also be one of the first symptoms you may experience.

Some people experience issues with memory or concentration, and it can impact your understanding and how you interact with others. Everyone forgets where they put their keys now and again, but if you notice you forget things a lot or are struggling to understand what people mean when they are talking to you, then you could be experiencing symptoms of multiple sclerosis.


This symptom of MS can leave you feeling exhausted from everyday tasks that were not bother before.

Gentle exercise can improve fatigue by helping the body produce endorphins which make us feel good and give us energy. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has also been found to help this symptom, in addition to medications available which you can speak to your GP, MS nurse or Neurologist about.


MS can result in the messages sent around the brain to the rest of the body to become disrupted, which among other things cause issues with balance. The mistranslation in signals can result in reduced coordination as well as dizziness or in some cases vertigo.

These are just some of the MS symptoms you can experience firstly, but if you would like to learn more about the others you can read and download our Symptoms Choices booklet.

What you should do if you suspect you have MS

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms we’ve mentioned in this blog, it may be worth getting in touch with your GP. An occasional sensation of pins and needles is quite normal and nothing to worry about but if it doesn’t go away you should get it checked out by a professional.

How is MS diagnosed?

Firstly, your GP will need to perform their own tests to exclude other conditions , which can include a full blood count, vitamin deficiencies, and inflammatory marker and thyroid function tests to name a few. If after these tests they see anything unusual then you’ll be referred to a neurologist for further investigations.

NICE guidelines state that a diagnosis of MS should take into account a combination of history, examination, MRI and laboratory findings, and following the McDonald criteria. In addition, your neurologist may conduct the following tests to ensure an accurate diagnosis.

MRI scanning

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a method of seeing the brain and spinal cord. This is done to observe if there are any clear indications of MS within your body. A neurologist will be looking for any visible scaring which are known as lesions at this stage.

The process can be a bit uncomfortable with the noise and tight space you’re put into but is a very valuable step in diagnosis process.

Lumbar puncture

This test requires a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) to be taken from the spinal cord. This is what protects the brain and is analysed to determine if there are any abnormalities in it caused by MS.

Again, this is another uncomfortable test that uses a long needle draw out fluid and once completed, you’ll have to be monitored in a hospital for several hours.

Evoked potentials

This test is a simple electrical one that measures how long it takes for your nerves to respond to stimulation. It’s a lot more comfortable to perform than the others mentioned and only takes around 30 – 45 minutes to complete.

The process can be lengthy, but it will help your diagnosis if you track your symptoms and share it at your appointments. Our MS Symptom Diary is a great free resource for this!

If you feel like the symptoms you’re experiencing could be multiple sclerosis, get in touch with your GP. Doing so is the first step to understanding what you’re experiencing and finding a way to manage them.

If you’d like to read more about other areas of MS we’ve briefly touched on, then feel free to take a look at our in-depth booklets! Just click the buttons below to find out more.