In 1999, at the age of forty-four, I became suddenly ill. My symptoms included nausea, facial drooping, loss of balance, tingling in my face, arms, hands, and legs, unsteadiness on my feet that quickly progressed to an inability to walk, nystagmus (involuntary eye movement), double vision, and uncontrollable nausea and vomiting.
Doctors found several abnormalities in my brain–a small brain bleed, as well as a large lesion near my brain stem in an inoperable location. Doctors believed the lesion to be a demyelinating lesion and not a tumor. For years, neurologists debated whether or not I had (and still do have) multiple sclerosis (MS).
MS occurs when the immune system goes wacky and attacks the sheath the protects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Over 350,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with M.S., and it can be difficult to determine a diagnosis because the symptom mimic other illnesses.
- discomfort when you move your eyes, just one eye, or general eye discomfort. I felt a sensation of pressure in my eyes for weeks and sensitivity to light. I also experienced double vision, and it times it felt like someone was turning lights up and down on a dimmer switch.
- balance issues. For a year before I was admitted to the hospital, I repeatedly fell down when I’d turn suddenly. I also felt like the room was spinning. (Three different doctors told me I had an inner ear infection, which was incorrect.)
- tingly, prickly sensations. My tongue and face felt as if they were “on fire” or as if they were waking up from falling asleep. My legs and arms also felt numb and tingly.
- tremors. I experienced tremors and tics in my hands and fingers.
- weakness and exhaustion. For the year prior to my hospitalization, I felt perpetually exhausted. However, at the same time I experienced my brain lesion, I was also diagnosed as a Type II diabetic and with hypo-thyroid disease, which would also explain symptoms of exhaustion.
- migraine. Before doctors found my brain lesion, I experienced severe headaches and still do.
If you’re experiencing MS symptoms, talk to your doctor. For more information, visit Caring.com.
Interestingly, over the past fourteen years, I’ve seen half a dozen neurologists, some who specialize in multiple sclerosis. In spite of my symptoms, I’ve never been diagnosed with MS, although most of my symptoms linger. I’m pleased to say that I live a full and active life and have found ways to manage my symptoms.