MS Christina Applegate: This is why early symptoms are often ignored

Actress Christina Applegate appears to have overlooked early symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) before she was diagnosed last summer while she was on the set of the third and final season of “Dead To Me,” which will premiere on Netflix on November 17.

“I was diagnosed on the job,” recent Emmy winner Variety said during an interview.

“I had to call everyone and be like, ‘I have multiple sclerosis, guys. “

christina applegate reveals role in ‘death to me’ may be last due to multiple sclerosis diagnosis

She added, “Then it was about learning – we all learn – what I would have been able to do.”

The 50-year-old gained fame as the reckless daughter in the sassy TV comedy Married…Has Kids, but she continued to show her acting versatility with shows like Friends to blockbusters like Anchorman.

Christina Applegate attends the premiere of “Dead To Me” Season 1 of Netflix at The Broad Stage on May 2, 2019, in Santa Monica, California.
(Presley Ann/Getty Images)

For her work, she was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 14.

She talks about her early signs and symptoms of MS.

What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a neurological disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, and together they make up the central nervous system that controls everything we do, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Although the causes of the disease aren’t clear, something triggers the immune system to attack the nervous system, the group says.

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This attack on the nervous system damages the protective outer covering of nerve fibers, known as myelin, as well as the nerve fibers themselves.

This image provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services shows an illustration of the coating of the Epstein-Barr virus, one of the most common viruses in the world.  New research shows stronger evidence that Epstein-Barr infection can set some people on the path to developing multiple sclerosis later on.

This image provided by the US Department of Health and Human Services shows an illustration of the coating of the Epstein-Barr virus, one of the most common viruses in the world. New research shows stronger evidence that Epstein-Barr infection can set some people on the path to developing multiple sclerosis later on.
(US Department of Health and Human Services via AP)

Nerves send electrical signals that help us feel sensations and move muscles in the body.

MS disrupts the transmission of these nerve signals between the brain, spinal cord, and the rest of the body, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Association.

Each patient’s experience with MS varies.

“The interruption of communication signals causes unexpected symptoms such as numbness, tingling, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis,” the association noted on its website.

However, each patient’s experience with MS varies.

Signs and symptoms

“Multiple sclerosis should be suspected when a younger person has neurological symptoms,” said Dr. J. S. Perumal, assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.

She links it to “the way one suspects a stroke when an elderly person develops” neurological symptoms.

Most people with MS have early symptoms when they are young, usually between the ages of 20 and 40, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

In addition to their vision problems, most patients with MS have weak muscles in the arms or legs and difficulty with balance that can become so severe that they have difficulty walking or standing.

In addition to their vision problems, most patients with MS have weak muscles in the arms or legs and difficulty with balance that can become so severe that they have difficulty walking or standing.
(iStock)

The same source added that one of the common early symptoms includes difficulty seeing, such as blurry vision or even blindness in one eye.

Most patients also have weak muscles in the arms or legs and difficulty with balance that can become so severe that they have difficulty walking or standing.

“MS can present with isolated vision loss, numbness, and tingling in your face [and] “Double vision usually lasts for days, not hours or minutes,” said Dr. Michael J. Ho, MD, associate professor of clinical neurology at UCLA in California.

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Applegate said she was “sleep all the time” after being diagnosed, and used a wheelchair to get around the set because it was difficult to walk, according to Variety.

Symptoms are subtle and often missed

But these symptoms are nonspecific and subtle, so patients can initially ignore them.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website, “Approximately half of people with MS have cognitive impairment such as difficulties with concentration, attention, memory, and poor judgment, but these symptoms are usually mild and often overlooked.”

“Sometimes when symptoms are mild and people are fully recovered, they may decide not to see a doctor.”

Applegate remembers having balance issues while filming a dance series in the first season of “Dead To Me” before he was officially diagnosed, according to the New York Times.

“I wish I had paid attention,” she told the newspaper. “But who would I have known?”

She later noticed that her tennis game was starting to suffer, but did not link it to a medical problem, as the same report indicated.

Christina Applegate attends the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020, in Santa Monica, California.

Christina Applegate attends the 25th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020, in Santa Monica, California.
(Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

But the Applegate experience can be a common experience for other MS patients.

“Sometimes when symptoms are mild and people are fully recovered, they may decide not to see a doctor because they attribute it to a number of reasons, including ‘pinched nerve’, stress, etc.,” Perumal told Fox News Digital.

However, some conditions may result in partial or complete paralysis, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke notes on its website.

Most patients experience temporary numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” sensation.

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Applegate told The Times that she began experiencing numbness and tingling in her extremities which worsened over several years before she was finally diagnosed last year.

Other characteristic symptoms include pain, difficulty speaking, tremors, or dizziness.

Multiple sclerosis diagnosis

“MS is diagnosed based on MRI findings,” Perumal added. “Lumbar puncture is only necessary if MRI is inconclusive.”

A patient with MS may have only temporary symptoms – and then those symptoms will disappear partially or completely over time. But then they can “relapse”.

“An exacerbation of MS (also known as a relapse, attack, or seizure) is the emergence of new symptoms or the worsening of old symptoms, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Association.

“Current treatments work best when used early in the course of the disease.”

The organization added that the relapse must last at least 24 hours and occur at least 30 days from the previous attack, excluding other causes – such as infection -.

“An MS relapse is any neurological symptom, such as numbness, weakness, vision problems, or impaired walking, among others, that occurs and lasts for a few days or weeks” — and then gradually regresses, said Perumal.

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“A patient with MS can have a normal check-up between relapses.”

Current treatments are effective

The doctor noted that today there are very effective treatments for MS.

“Our current therapies work best when used early in the course of the disease. They are very good at preventing further injury and preserving function, but not so good at reversing an injury that has sustained over years,” she said.

“If there’s been one taking, that’s early early treatment,” the doctor added.

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“People will see me for the first time as a disabled person, and it’s very difficult,” Applegate told Variety.

“I’m trying to figure it out – and I’m also in mourning for the person I was,” she added.

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