Misdiagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis can cause a large variety of symptoms and medical complications, simply depending on exactly what part of the spinal cord or nerve sheaths are being attacked. Some people only ever have a single attack, which is called a “Single Sclerosis”. Other people get multiple attacks over time, and management of MS often involves watching for something new.

Multiple or Single Sclerosis? Diagnosis of MS often involves looking for “multiple” problems. If you’ve only had one event of a demyelination episode where it seemed nerve-related (tingling, numbness, burning sensations, paralysis, weakness, etc.), then the likelihood of MS is lower. In that case, you might be unlucky and have Single Sclerosis or “Clinically Isolated Syndrome”, but you’re also quite likely to have some other type of medical condition (often a nerve condition in the region where the symptoms are occurring).

Differential diagnosis of Nerve Disorders: There are a great many possible alternative diagnoses to consider, depending on what symptoms are being seen, and which area of the body seems affected.

  • Single Sclerosis: the condition where a person has only had a single MS-like attack. It may or may not progress to full-blown Multiple Sclerosis. Read more about Single Sclerosis.
  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome: a formal definition of a demyelination disorder where only a single lesion has occurred.
  • Neuropathy: this is the general name for an inflammation of the nerves. It could affect one nerve, or could affect a lot of nerves. What type of neuropathy depends on which nerves are affected and what the underlying cause. With a diagnosis of neuropathy, it is important to find the underlying cause of the neuropathy; read more about Causes of Neuropathy.
  • Meralgia Paresthetica: This condition typically involves tingling of the thigh region. It is mostly harmless and usually goes away on its own (with watchful waiting). However, a tingling thigh could also be an MS nerve event, so a doctor will probably want to watch for other possible indications of MS, even with this diagnosis. Read more about Meralgia Paresthetica and Tingling Thigh.
  • Nerve entrapment disorders
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS): This condition tends to effect the ulnar nerve and cause symptoms such as tingling fingers, elbow sensations, and so on.
  • Ulnar Nerve Conditions: The ulnar nerve runs from the spine down to the little pinky finger. Various conditions such as Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Tennis Elbow, and so on, are caused by damage to this long nerve.
  • Autonomic neuropathy.
  • Diabetic Neuropathy. A diabetic may simply have diabetic neuropathy affecting the nerves, rather than MS.

Eye Symptoms: If the symptoms are vision problems related to the optic nerve, there are various other possible causes:

Spinal Disorders: The nerve of the spinal cord, and the nerve roots that extend from there, may also be affected by disorders of the spinal vertebrae and spinal structure, such as:

Other Conditions with Vague Symptoms: Some patients may find the symptoms of MS quite vague, especially in the early stages. In such cases, there are a number of other conditions that also cause vague and confusing symptoms that should be considered on the differential diagnosis list:

Read more about: Causes of Vague Symptoms.

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