These Are the First Signs of MS, Famous Patients Say
These stars share when they first knew something was wrong before being diagnosed.
Because multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease that affects the central nervous system, its symptoms can vary widely depending on the level of nerve damage and which nerves are affected. "Some people with severe MS may lose the ability to walk independently or at all, while others may experience long periods of remission without any new symptoms," the Mayo Clinic says. And while the disease, which currently has no cure, truly affects everyone differently, there are some symptoms and early warning signs of MS that seem to be more common than others.
Nearly one million people are living with MS in the United States, according to a study funded by the National MS Society, including many celebrities; most recently actor Christina Applegate revealed she had been diagnosed with the disease. Read on to discover some early warning signs of MS, according to celebrities from Jack Osbourne to Ann Romney.
Selma Blair had been experiencing years of pain and inexplicable physical symptoms prior to her 2018 MS diagnosis. But there was one incident in particular that the 49-year-old actor and mother of one said really made her realize something was wrong.
In a recent interview with Variety, Blair recalled a time in Feb. 2018 when she was walking down the runway in a Christian Siriano fashion show and her leg essentially gave out. "It was on that runway, with the thrill of walking in the show, that I suddenly lost feeling in my left leg," Blair previously told Town & Country in Apri.. "But I was on a runway and thinking, 'What do I do?'"
Blair also told Variety that a few months following that event, her hands basically stopped working when she was trying to write her manager a note. Shortly after, she was diagnosed with the disease.
In an Instagram post in Oct. 2018 following her diagnosis, Blair noted other symptoms she commonly experiences. "I fall sometimes. I drop things. My memory is foggy. And my left side is asking for directions from a broken GPS," she wrote.
During the spring of 2012, Jack Osbourne was shooting a scene of his paranormal reality TV series Haunted Highway, which required him to scuba dive into a cold lake at night. According to the American Academy of Neurology magazine Brain & Life, Osbourne, then 27, emerged from the water with a "migraine-like headache," and woke up the following day with blurred vision.
As his vision became worse, Osbourne eventually found himself at a neurologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. After extensive testing—including an MRI and spinal tap—he was diagnosed with MS.
But even prior to the blurred vision, Osbourne said he had been ignoring a numb, pinching feeling in one of his legs for three months. "I ignored the pinching in my leg because I thought I just pinched a nerve," he told Healthline. "Even when I got diagnosed, I thought, 'Aren't I too young to get this?' Now, I know the average age of diagnosis is between 20 and 40."
While Sopranos star Jamie-Lynn Sigler didn't go public with her MS diagnosis until 2016, she was actually diagnosed in 2002 during the show's third season. The now 40-year-old actor had returned home after filming an episode of the popular HBO series and went to take a shower, at which point she felt a strange, heavy sensation in her leg. "It was that feeling right before you get pins and needles, that weird tingling, like your legs are asleep," she told WebMD in 2016.
Sigler experienced a similar feeling when she had Lyme disease in 2001. "I didn't know if this was a relapse or what it was," she continued.
The actor ended up spending the night in the hospital where she was told by a doctor that she had MS.
Teri Garr has been in some of the most celebrated films in Hollywood history—from Tootsie to Young Frankenstein to Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not to mention nine Elvis Presley movies. In addition to being a silver screen icon, Garr is also known for being a leading advocate for MS education and research, a disease she was diagnosed with in 1999, but started experiencing symptoms of many years prior to that.
"It started in 1983. I was living in New York and I'd go jogging in Central Park, and I'd start tripping," Garr told Brain & Life in 2005. "I'd notice that the more I ran and got my body heated up, the weaker I'd get. But then it'd go away, and it went away for about ten years. And then it started up again, and I started getting stabbing pains in my arm when I ran."
In a 2009 interview with Everyday Health, Garr discussed other symptoms she dealt with early on, as well as ones she continues to be impacted by. "I had weakness on the right side—arm, leg, and foot," she said. "Having to manage fatigue is something I and many people with MS have to deal with, and heat is no friend to my MS either; it can be devastating. However, each person with MS lives with his or her own special suitcase of symptoms. Yet, we all work around our symptoms and move forward with our lives."
Award-winning talk show host Montel Williams was diagnosed with MS in 1999, but the television personality began experiencing symptoms 19 years prior to that, just a few months before he was set to graduate from the Naval Academy.
"I lost 80 percent vision in my left eye and was put on medical hold [by the] military because they thought I would be blind in one eye," he said in an interview with MedicineNet. "My commission was held up when I graduated, because at that moment I was not qualified to become a naval officer."
Williams continued: "I went on to cyclically remit and relapse for the next 19 years before I was diagnosed. In some ways I can look back and say I'm glad it took them 19 years, because had I received the prognosis that most doctors were giving back then, I probably would have given up on myself and not be where I am today."
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For years following her MS diagnosis in 1998, Ann Romney was so miserable and exhausted that she found it hard to even get out of bed, she said in her 2015 book In This Together: My Story, according to USA Today. But it wasn't just extreme fatigue that the wife of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney suffered through in the early stages of her disease. For her, MS began to present itself with a numb feeling in her right leg that, over the course of a couple months, spread down to her foot and up to her chest.
"It was terrifying. I didn't know when it was going to stop," Romney says. "I felt like there was a little Pac-Man eating me away."
In 2019, after fans made speculations that he was drinking and using drugs again, Everclear frontman Art Alexakis set the record straight by revealing that he had MS, which was the reason he was appearing unsteady on stage—not because of substance misuse. The musician first learned about the diagnosis after he was in a car accident and went to a doctor complaining of numbness, which he thought was a pinched nerve, Page Six reported.
"I have had it for anywhere between 10 to 20 years," Alexakis wrote in a letter to fans on the band's website in early 2019. "It explains why I have had balance and gait problems for the last ten years, it helps explain why I have had a higher sensitivity to heat and cold, and why I don't have the energy, vigor, and razor-sharp memory that I had ten years ago. I thought it was just me getting older."
Fox News meteorologist Janice Dean made a name for herself by preparing viewers for the worst Mother Nature has to offer, but nothing could prepare her for the news of her 2005 MS diagnosis.
"At the time, I knew very little about MS, and the things I had heard about the disease scared me," Dean told Brain & Life in 2014. "I envisioned a wheelchair in my future."
In her 2019 book Mostly Sunny, Dean detailed the symptoms she experienced leading up to her diagnosis, People reports.
"My first big exacerbation or flare up [happened after] I had gone through the 2005 hurricane season," she says. "That was the year of Katrina. I was working a lot of hours. I was tired. Really, abnormally tired. I felt like I could sleep for days. At points, I couldn't even get out of bed and I didn't know what was wrong with me."
Dean then described experiencing numbness in her thighs and loss of feeling on the soles of her feet, which led her to a doctor and a host of medical tests that eventually yielded her diagnosis.