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MS: The Houdini Disease

Ever have one of those other-worldly days? Tunnel vision? Unprompted paralysis? The dropsies? Uncontrollable muscle spasticity? Nonsensical emotional outbursts of laughter or sobbing?

Just when you suspect that aliens have possessed your body, you realize you could be right and they are crawling on your skin.

Hundreds of thousands of tiny, persistent, stinging insect clones tap dance and twirl on your skin; A confused orchestral arrangement of untrained entertainers.

I look at my cat’s scratchpad with interest. If only kitty would use me instead.

A type of itching known as dysesthetic itching is sometimes seen in people with MS. This symptom is caused by damage to the nerves in the skin or the nerves that send signals to the skin. This damage makes the skin react with an itching sensation, even if there’s no physical cause for it. People who have dysesthetic itching should talk to their health care provider as there are now medications approved to treat this problem.


Regular itching treatments, such as cortisone creams or sprays, will usually have no effect on MS itching.

However, there are some medications that may help.

The National MS Society list several drugs that may help reduce MS itching:

  • some antidepressants, such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • anticonvulsants, such as phenytoin (Dilantin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and gabapentin (Neurotonin)
  • hydroxyzine (Atarax), which is an antihistamine

Tremors, itching, hearing loss, MS hug, eye pain, trouble swallowing, speech problems, seizures, breathing problems, and headaches are all invisible/silent issues associated with the MonSter. No wonder this beast is so miserable. I know I would be.

Oh, I am…

For such a boisterous disease, multiple sclerosis is such a sneaky son of a gun. Like the tricky life partner it is, the MonSter is a pro at giving its victims THE SILENT TREATMENT.

Acute Neuropathic Pain is sometimes an initial symptom of MS or may be part of an MS relapse. Acute means it has a rapid onset and is of short duration. Types of acute neuropathic pain include:

  • Trigeminal neuralgia (TN) — a stabbing pain in the face or jaw area that can occur as an initial symptom of MS or as a relapse. While it can be confused with dental pain, this pain is neuropathic in origin (caused by damage to the trigeminal nerve). This pain often comes and goes and it is unpredictable when it might occur.
  • Lhermitte’s sign — a brief, stabbing, electric-shock-like sensation that runs from the back of the head down the spine and often into the arms or legs, brought on by bending the neck forward. It typically means there is or has been damage from MS in the cervical spine (neck). When this happens for the first time it could be a relapse or a first sign of MS.
  • MS Hug — a squeezing sensation around the torso that feels like a blood pressure cuff when it tightens. This too is from damage to the spine from MS and could be a first symptom of MS or a relapse.
  • Paroxysmal spasms — intermittent and painful tightening of muscles, such as in your arm or leg that may occur many times throughout the day or night.
Photo by Natalya Khartukova on Unsplash

Recently a friend pulled me aside after reading this blog. She felt the need to apologize for not fully understanding the impact the MonSter has on my life. I hope I adequately assured her that the purpose of this publication is NOT a plea for special treatment, but an avenue of education for the unaware.

The silent symptoms of multiple sclerosis aren’t easy to explain and my heart goes out to those Warriors finding difficulty communicating this.

I cannot express my gratitude for the authentic friends in my life, who know the importance of conversation rather assumption. Yes, my friend(you know who you are), we are family!

So, Harry Houdini might have been able to escape many a precarious situation, but I really believe MS would have proven the ultimate illusion.

But, guess what, Harry? I got this.

Lisa, Lady With the Cane



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