Multiple Sclerosis Misdiagnosis – Why This Happens?

Multiple sclerosis has a range of symptoms that are similar to a number of other illnesses including autoimmune, infectious, vascular and other diseases. This can increase the likelihood of misdiagnosis so it is imperative that you are sure your diagnosis of MS or one of the other illnesses that can mimic MS is correct.

The issues of varied presentation amongst sufferers and a number of illnesses that have similar symptoms of MS can pose difficulties for doctors not only with diagnosis but also with treatment. These mimics may have similar symptoms but different treatments so a wrong diagnosis will only lead to wrong treatment being prescribed and possible complications for the individual in the future. Research suggests that up to 10% of people diagnosed with MS may have been misdiagnosed.

How is MS diagnosed?

Doctors need an accurate family and personal history detailing information on all the risk factors such as neurological problems in the family, geographic locations you have lived, substance abuse, reactions to heat, medications taken, past surgeries, illnesses and allergies.

You should tell the doctor about any symptoms you have been experiencing, when they started, information about what you were doing when you experienced them can also provide the doctor with insights into the diagnosis.

Neurological examinations to test exaggerated reflexes, eye examinations to determine optic nerve damage. MRI scans to identify lesions in the brain and possibly determine when they were developed gives the doctor additional evidence which they can then use to rule out alternative diagnoses and illnesses that mimic the symptoms of MS.

All this information will help the doctors avoid possible multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis.

What illnesses look like MS?

This is one of the most important questions asked by persons who may be experiencing symptoms and are concerned that they may have MS.

Autoimmune, infectious, vascular and other disorders can display symptoms that mimic MS.

Autoimmune disorders

Lupus or Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) affects the blood and kidneys. Many of its symptoms resemble those of MS including extreme fatigue, sun or light sensitivity, achy, swollen joints and seizures.

Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM) affects the brain and the spinal cord. Optic neuritis, lethargy, delirium and paralysis of a limb on one side of the body are common symptoms of this disease.

Sjögren’s Syndrome affects the entire body as it is a systemic disease. Symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty swallowing and speaking, joint pain and numbness.

Myasthenia Gravis (MG) sufferers can exhibit muscle fatigue, weakness of the limbs and impaired eye coordination amongst other symptoms.

Sarcoidosis patients can experience vision problems, excessive thirst and fatigue and chronic arthritis.

Any of these illnesses can result in a multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis when proper history and testing are ignored.

Infectious diseases

Neurosyphillis and Lyme disease are infectious diseases that mimic MS. Partial paralysis of the lower limbs, incontinence of the bladder and bowel and impotence are some of the symptoms of Lyme disease whilst Neurosyphillis can cause visual problems.

Vascular disorders

Strokes, Central Nervous System Angitis,Dural Arteriovenous Fistulas and Binswanger’s are all vascular diseases that mimic MS and can escalate the chances of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis.

Others

Muscular dystrophy (MD), Fibromyalgia, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), vitamin B12 deficiency, migraine, Beçhets, hypo-thyroidism, Arnold-Chiari deformity and hypertension all mimic MS and can increase the likelihood of multiple sclerosis misdiagnosis.