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Understanding visible and invisible symptoms of MS

People with multiple sclerosis can experience a range of symptoms, it’s important to note down and discuss all your symptoms with your healthcare team. 

Article medically reviewed by Karen Vernon an MS Nursing Specialist at Salford Royal Foundation Trust.

When we talk about MS symptoms, it’s usual for them to be classed in two different broad groups – visible and invisible. That might sound a bit strange for someone living with multiple sclerosis, as no symptom feels ‘invisible’ to you.

Viewing MS symptoms as either visible or invisible is a way of understanding how other people see the effects of multiple sclerosis. Visible symptoms are, by their very nature, easier for other people to notice.

Invisible symptoms are the opposite. They can have an impact on your health, but other people could be completely oblivious to the challenges you’re living with. You’re likely to encounter the phrase ‘invisible illness’ on your journey. That’s what that means.

With MS, symptoms often come and go, and will range in intensity and how they impact you on a day to day basis – but remember, for many people there are different treatment and therapy options available to help manage them. We’re going to take a more detailed look at the most common visible and invisible symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

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Visible symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Visible MS symptoms are those that other people can see, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re obvious to everyone. 

If you’re experiencing visible symptoms you may feel comfortable discussing these with others or you may not; how much you choose to disclose about your MS should always be your decision.

The main visible symptoms of multiple sclerosis are likely to be difficulties with:

  • Mobility
  • Speech
  • Spasticity and spasms



Spasticity and spasms

Invisible symptoms of multiple sclerosis

 Invisible symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Invisible symptoms are those that are considered hidden, or not easily detected. During an increase in your MS symptoms you may be experiencing challenges that other people are totally unaware of. It can feel like a silent struggle.

When someone asks me about MS, if they know anything, it’s usually that it affects a person’s ability to walk. If only it was that simple… We (MSers) have a little of almost every disease to deal with. Think about it – the brain controls everything the body does. @calNFFC

With that observation in mind, it’s no surprise to learn that the range of invisible symptoms in multiple sclerosis can be wide and varied. Here are some of the most common.

Bladder and bowel




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