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Multiple Sclerosis: The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Treatment

4 de December, 2023

To mark National Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day, celebrated on December 4th, we share an opinion article by Dr. Marisa Brum, Neurologist at CNS – Neurological Campus, about the importance of early diagnosis and treatment.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects about 2.5 million people worldwide and is a chronic, inflammatory, and progressively degenerative disease of the Central Nervous System (CNS).

This disease can sometimes be challenging to diagnose as it presents through various symptoms, easily confused with other neurological diseases. Therefore, despite understanding the importance of timely diagnosis and treatment, the initial diagnosis can be prolonged.

It is estimated that in Portugal, there are more than 8,000 patients with MS. It typically appears in young adults between the ages of 20 and 40 and predominantly affects women.

Symptoms can vary widely and manifest more or less frequently from person to person:

  • Fatigue is a very common symptom, manifesting for different periods and corresponding to extreme tiredness after minimal exertion;
  • Optic neuritis corresponds to complaints of blurry, “foggy” vision or decreased vision;
  • Muscle weakness in the arms and legs;
  • Sensory alterations can feel like limbs are “wrapped in cotton,” or other sensory changes like tingling or prickling sensations;
  • Balance and coordination issues, for example, difficulty grasping small objects, writing clearly, or walking as if intoxicated;
  • Urinary and bowel changes – this can manifest as difficulty urinating or fully emptying the bladder (called urinary “retention”), or “urge incontinence,” frequent, sudden, and difficult to delay urination;
  • Sexual problems – men with MS may have difficulty obtaining or maintaining an erection. In women, MS often causes a loss of sensitivity in sexual organs, pain during intercourse, and an inability to achieve orgasm;
  • Cognitive changes – in advanced stages of the disease, issues with recent memory;
  • Mood changes and depression.

Currently, we know that the earlier the diagnosis and treatment, the slower the disease progression. Efforts have been made to develop various treatments impacting the disease.

Thus, in the last two decades, there has been the development of several treatments with an impact on the disease’s evolution. In 1993, the first treatment for MS was approved. Although there is no cure, treatments aim to reduce the number of relapses (episodes of neurological changes) by decreasing the brain’s inflammatory activity occurring in the disease.

In summary, MS is an inflammatory CNS disease that can be disabling. Therefore, to prevent disease progression and more severe consequences, early diagnosis and treatment are essential, along with regular monitoring to assess the need for medication adjustments over time.

Dr. Marisa Brum


CNS – Campus Neurológico