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Midbrain Symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system. It damages the protective layer around nerve cells in the brain, called myelin. This may slow or block messages that are sent between the brain and body, according to the National Institutes of Health.

MS may damage different parts of the brain or spinal cord, including the brainstem. The brainstem acts like a highway. It connects the brain to the rest of the body, via the spinal cord. It helps to control hunger, thirst, breathing, and other basic body functions, explains the University of Pittsburgh’s Neurological Surgery Center.

When MS damages the brainstem, it may cause a variety of symptoms. These symptoms vary from one person to another. They may be more or less severe, and they may change over time.


Lesions on the brainstem may cause diplopia, or “double vision”. Diplopia happens when muscles that control eye movements become weak and uncoordinated. For example, “sixth nerve palsy” is one type of diplopia. It causes double vision when you look to the side. In most cases, it only affects eye movements to one side, not the other.

Diplopia may often improve on its own, without medical treatment. However, the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America warns that in some cases, a sudden bout of diplopia is a sign of an acute attack.

Vision may progressively become impaired if the optic nerve or optic region of the brainstem is affected by MS.


Vertigo may happen when areas of the brainstem that coordinate balance are damaged. Vertigo is a sensation that your environment is moving when it really is not. Patients often describe that it feels like “the room is suddenly spinning.” It may be joined by nausea, vomiting, or loss of balance. For many people, it gets worse when they close their eyes.

Speak with a doctor if you have severe vertigo, advises the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. It can often be treated with medications for nausea or motion sickness.

Bladder Problems

Bladder problems are very common in people with MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. These symptoms can happen when signals sent between the brain and the bladder are slowed or blocked by lesions. Problems may include:

• Increased need to urinate (urinary frequency or urgency)
• Difficulty starting to urinate or maintaining a steady stream (urinary hesitancy)
• Loss of bladder control (incontinence)

Bladder problems may raise the risk of kidney damage. They may also cause emotional strain and personal hygiene challenges, especially when left untreated.
Talk with a doctor about treatment options if you have bladder problems. For example, you may find relief by changing your diet and taking prescribed medications.


Most people with MS do not become severely disabled, says the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. But sometimes, a brain lesion may cause paralysis. Usually, the paralysis occurs on the opposite side of the body as the brain lesion. It may involve paralysis of the arm, leg, and/or face. The medical term for this is “hemiplegia.”

Brainstem lesions may also cause paralysis in other parts of the body. For example, lesions in the medulla may cause paralysis of the tongue, pharynx, and larynx on one side, as well as the arm and leg on the other side. This is called “crossed paralyses.”

If you are experiencing suspected symptoms of MS, including diplopia, bladder problems, or paralysis, it’s important to speak with a medical professional.

Via : livestrong

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