As well as affecting the control of muscles and actions in different parts of the body, damage to the brain caused by MS can also affect mental processes. These disorders are called cognitive or cognition problems. Generally, cognition problems in MS affect the speed or ease with which someone can process information, and do not indicate a loss of underlying intelligence.
Memory difficulties are primarily related to the recall of recent events or information and forgetting to carry out planned actions.
Information processing problems
Difficulty following complicated instructions or a series of instructions, especially if the information is given rapidly.
Problem solving difficulties
An inability to hold a number of pieces of information in the head at once and being unable to mentally structure thoughts to carry out a series of separate actions.
The inability to find the right word when speaking, also called the 'tip of the tongue' phenomenon, is a short-term recall problem rather than the loss of memory for that word.
Concentration and attention span problems
This tends to occur when a lot of information is being delivered to a person at once, for example where several people are talking or in a noisy, bustling environment.
Cognitive problems can fluctuate from day to day and can worsen during relapse or periods of fatigue. Some medications, including those used to counteract pain, fatigue and depression, may also have an impact on these problems.
Although research suggests that these symptoms can affect almost half of all people with MS, many people may not recognise them as symptoms of MS or may find ways to compensate for the problems without seeking treatment. Problems can arise early in the course of someone's MS, although the greater the disease duration and severity the more likely problems are to occur.
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