Many of us with multiple sclerosis (MS) have experienced the phenomenon of paroxysmal symptoms -- those that come on suddenly, bother us for a short time (seconds or minutes), and then disappear as suddenly as they came.
Whether it is an episode of double vision or a prickly feeling on my face, these moments usually lead me to wonder a number of things. Is this a relapse? How bad is this going to get? Does this mean my MS is progressing?
Eager to learn exactly what doctors know about what I experience, I reached out to the folks at UpToDate -- a trusted electronic reference undoubtedly used by many of the physicians who treat patients with these symptoms (perhaps even yours and mine).
Dig in to this excerpt yourself, then read on for answers to questions you may have about what all of this means for you.
Paroxysmal Symptoms of MS: A Definition from UpToDate
"Paroxysmal attacks of motor or sensory phenomena can occur with demyelinating lesions. These symptoms are characterized by brief, almost stereotypic, events occurring frequently and often triggered by movement or sensory stimuli. They are likely caused by ephaptic transmission of nerve impulses at sites of previous disease activity. Although troublesome to the patient, these symptoms do not indicate a true exacerbation of MS or cause a loss of myelin in the CNS.
"Within the brain stem, lesions may cause paroxysmal diplopia, facial paresthesia, trigeminal neuralgia, ataxia, and dysarthria. Additional symptoms include, but are not limited to, pain, trunk and limb paresthesia, weakness, ataxia, pruritus, akinesia, and seizures. Motor system involvement may result in dystonia characterized by painful tonic contractions of muscles of one or two (homolateral) limbs, trunk, and occasionally the face; these only rarely occur in all four limbs or the trunk."
Fully understanding all of this will not only give you a better grasp of what is going on, but it will help you be better able to discuss your situation with your doctor.