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How MS Affects Women

By Daryl H. Bryant (429 words)
Posted in Living with MS on August 1, 2019

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How MS Affects Women

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) affects each individual differently. Because it affects the nervous system, one person may need significant support to manage daily living skills, while others may live with minimal flares. People can be diagnosed with MS at any age, but the condition seems to most commonly affect women between the ages of 35 - 54. 

The most common signs of multiple sclerosis in adults include fatigue, balance and vision issues, numbness and tingling, and brain fog. However, there are several issues that are specific to women. Here are four ways MS may affect women differently. 


Although women are proportionately more likely to be affected by MS, it’s also more difficult for women to receive a proper diagnosis. On average, women with autoimmune conditions battle symptoms for 4.6 years and see five doctors before getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. 


The menstrual cycle affects the body’s hormonal levels, as well as body temperature throughout the month. Specifically, a woman’s temperature is slightly elevated just before and during menses. Many women commonly experience premenstrual symptoms, but women with MS may also experience worsening fatigue, weakness, balance issues, and even depression. 


Initially, doctors thought that women with MS shouldn’t get pregnant. However, research has shown that MS doesn’t affect fertility, and women with MS can have a healthy pregnancy and baby. As with many autoimmune issues, women who are diagnosed with MS are less likely to relapse during pregnancy, although they may relapse a few weeks to a few months after delivery. Medical professionals theorize this is due to hormonal changes during and after pregnancy. Many women also report fewer MS symptoms during later stages of pregnancy. 


Hormonal changes aren’t limited to just menstruation and pregnancy. MS symptoms can also overlap with early symptoms of menopause. In fact, the condition is more common among premenopausal women, and research shows symptoms can flare when a woman enters menopause.  And just as heat affects symptoms, menopausal hot flashes may also trigger MS flares. Fortunately, studies find that Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) may both improve menopause symptoms and reduce MS symptoms for women. 


Women who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis manage unique symptoms that are often hormone-related. It’s important to take this into consideration when discussing symptom management and treatment options with your doctor. And, of course, diet and lifestyle changes are key to managing symptoms. Don’t give up hope - with proper support, a good treatment plan, and a positive attitude, it is possible to live symptom-free.

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