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Scary MS Symptoms: Halloween Edition

By Matt Cavallo

Halloween has its roots more than 2,000 years ago as the Celtic festival of Samhain to scare off the ghosts and ghouls. As time evolved, so did the concept of Halloween. The United States began celebrating in the 19th century but it wasn’t until the 20th century that customs like pumpkin carving and trick or treating began to infiltrate popular culture. Now on Halloween, we dress up as the ghosts and ghouls we once tried to keep away, get spooked by horror movies or haunted houses and gorge on candy and caramel apples. In honor of this tradition, here are five scary MS symptoms that eerily remind me of some familiar Halloween haunts.

1. Frankenstein Walk – MS symptoms can include problems with walking. Often times we are unable to lift our leg, so we drag it like a monster from the Michael Jackson thriller video. Or we waddle from side to side with stiff legs like Frankenstein. While the MS Frankenstein walk is a very scary symptom to live through, there are ways to cope. A physical therapist can help with your gait and functional mobility. 

2. The Pirate’s Eye – Optic Neuritis is a common symptom that effects your vision. When you experience optic neuritis, light and blurriness make it so difficult to see out of the effected eye that you might want to hide it under a pirate’s patch. Ahoy, me hearties! Avast! Ye no longer have to suffer with eye patches! Your neurologist can prescribe medication to help improve your vision. Problems with vision can affect your depth perception, walking, driving and other everyday activities, so the eye patch may help until your pirate’s eye has resolved.

3. Sleepy Hollow Brain Fog – Much like Ichabod Crane’s fabled attempt to escape the Headless Horseman through the foggy woods of Sleepy Hollow, many of us with MS try to escape everyday brain fog. Foggy memory, poor concentration and slowed thinking, create fear and anxiety. Losing your keys, forgetting where you are or what you were supposed to do, not remembering tasks at home and work are all executive functions that can fail in the fog of MS. Your neurologist is not afraid of the fog, so let them know if you are experiencing these symptoms.

4. Zombie Sleep – While we would like to rest in peace, many of us experience symptoms that make us restless in the night like a zombie reaching their hand through the ground. Restless legs, interrupted sleep, inability to sleep and insomnia are some of the symptoms of MS. This lack of sleep leads to fatigue, which makes us feel like The Walking Dead. Many may attribute these symptoms to other factors like stress, but it is best to discuss these symptoms with your neurologist to see if they are related to your MS.

5. Phantom of the MS Symptoms – Phantom symptoms are scarier than the masked phantom living below the opera. These are feelings of insects crawling, water dripping, wetness, pressure, and vibration living below our skin. These are invisible symptoms that we can’t run or hide from. They are also difficult to explain to our family, friends or coworkers. The invisible symptoms of MS are every bit as scary as the ones we can see. But fear not, because one of the super powers of the neurologist is being able to detect and defeat these invisible symptoms.

Our neurologists are the super heroes that can combat the spooky MS symptoms. While they may look like regular doctors, they have special ability to see these scary, invisible symptoms of MS and can create a plan of care to help. Other MS super heroes are our nurses, therapists and organizations, like MS Focus, that strive to put an end to this devastatingly spooky disease. Happy Halloween everyone!