November 21, 2013 | News | Living with MSMS Research

GI problems common in multiple sclerosis

With everything else going on, gastrointestinal (GI) problems can often get overlooked during a visit to a neurologist or family doctor. But a recent survey at an MS clinic in Pittsburgh has found that GI complaints are very common among people with MS (Levinthal and colleagues. Mult Scler Int 2013; 2013:319201).

A total of 218 people completed the survey. Most of the respondents were women with relapsing-remitting MS. The average age was 48 years of age. The average time living with MS was 13 years. The most common MS medication in this group was Tysabri.

Two-thirds of the survey participants reported having at least one GI symptom. Symptoms were more frequent (or more commonly reported) by women. The most common symptoms were constipation (37% of people), dyspepsia (feeling full, indigestion; 28%), bloating (22%), difficulty swallowing (21%), fecal incontinence (15%), and heartburn at least once a week (12%).  Other problems included nausea, a feeling that something was stuck in the throat, stomach aches and chest pain.

MS can affect muscle function so MS nurses will often ask about some GI symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, constipation or fecal incontinence. Other GI symptoms may be caused directly or indirectly by MS. However, some problems – such as nausea and diarrhea – may not be related to the disease process but rather to the many medications used to treat MS. For example, nausea was more common survey participants who were taking Ampyra (Fampyra), which is prescribed to improve walking distance.

Some GI symptoms will quickly pass. But persistent, severe or troublesome symptoms shouldn’t be ignored – they need to be treated by either your family doctor or a specialist. There are medications that can relieve symptoms. Your doctor could try changing or adjusting the medications you already take. And your MS nurse, dietitian or other health professional can give you tips to improve your symptoms and make them easier to manage.

Share this article
pin it!

Related Posts