What are paroxysmal symptoms in multiple sclerosis (MS)?

For most people with multiple sclerosis (MS), "paroxysmal symptoms" is not a familiar term. Paroxysmal symptoms are characterized by sudden onset, brief duration, and rapid disappearance. With patients exhibiting these events, brain wave studies do not identify them as seizures. These paroxysms may appear as brief twitching or spasms coming on suddenly and disappearing fully within seconds. They may or may not lead to an MS diagnosis. They are not "MS seizures."

Examples of paroxysmal symptoms are:
  • Sudden temperature shifts, also known as "hot flashes"
  • A tic in the eyelid or lip
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Problems finding the right word in the midst of a conversation or prepared speech
  • Sudden emotional shifts that may be inappropriate in the moment but normalize rapidly
  • Facial or tooth pain after eating or drinking something very hot or cold
  • Shooting pains in an arm or leg, hand or foot, that do not linger but may be severe enough to almost take your breath away.
Some of these symptoms have triggers such as:
  • Fatigue
  • Sudden change in position
  • Sudden temperature changes
  • Sensory stimulus such as touch
  • An emotional or physical stimulus
In people with MS, paroxysmal symptoms may signal the onset of a relapse if they appear without warning and last for several days. This is especially true if accompanied by other continuous symptoms such as fatigue, vision changes, bowel and bladder changes, or any of the symptoms that usually indicate a relapse for the individual. If you have not experienced any of these before and suddenly notice twitches or spasms, shooting pains, or other events that last only seconds then are gone, this should be brought to the attention of your neurologist.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.