What are symptoms of MS in women?

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in women can be slightly different than in men.

Symptoms of MS in women can be different and MS affects women more than men.

Researchers are not entirely sure why MS is different in women — it could be hormonal differences, genetic makeup or differences in the immune system.

With MS generally, the immune system attacks the protective coating (myelin) on nerves. Without myelin, the nerves can’t effectively send signals to the brain or body. The disease is usually progressive, which means it can get worse over time and may lead to permanent damage or breakdown of the nerves.

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If you suspect you might have MS or have risk factors for MS, talk to your primary care physician.

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Symptoms of MS in women

Although MS affects every person differently, there are some common symptoms women may experience:

Hormonal effects

  • Symptoms might be worse within a week of starting your period.
  • Amenorrhea (no period for three months or more) may occur in some women.
  • Pregnancy can reduce MS flare-ups.
  • Symptoms may worsen after menopause.


Sensory issues

  • A numb feeling anywhere in the body, ranging from barely noticeable to bad enough that it affects daily life
  • Spasms, unexplained weakness or stiff muscles
  • Balance issues or vertigo


  • Extreme exhaustion that does not go away, even with adequate sleep
  • Worsens with heat or humidity
  • Happens every day

Bladder and bowel issues

  • Frequent or urgent need to urinate
  • Incontinence (being unable to “hold it”)
  • Constipation, diarrhea or loss of bowel control


  • A sharp pain in the face that may be confused with dental pain
  • The sensation of an electrical shock from the back of the head down the neck and spine, typically after bending forward
  • The “MS hug” — a stabbing, squeezing, painful or burning feeling in the torso, legs, feet or arms

Norton Neuroscience Institute’s multiple sclerosis (MS) program has been designated a Center for Comprehensive MS Care by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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