Is It an MS Diagnosis or Something Else?
I am told I have primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), and my symptoms appear to be in line with that diagnosis. I continually have a slow gait, leg weakness, balance issues, and fatigue. There is never a break from those symptoms. Intermittently, I have cognitive issues, slurred speech, and burning leg cramps.
Over the past eight years, my MRIs have come back showing lesions on my brain and spine. Before 2010, I had symptoms but no visible lesions. Doctors have told me that the lesions on my spine look like they are multiple sclerosis (MS), but the ones on my brain do not.
My new neurologist explained that when MS is present, the lesions usually congregate more in the center of the brain. My lesions are few and scattered on the outer perimeter instead.
Due to that discrepancy, my doctor decided to order a blood test to search for neuromyelitis optica (NMO) antibodies, which are present in NMO, also known as Devic’s disease. Devic’s is a more aggressive disease than PPMS. Luckily, I tested negative for the NMO antibodies.
There are many diseases, disorders, syndromes, and conditions that can mimic MS. This can add challenges to the already-complicated process of diagnosing unpredictable MS.
The fact that my neurologist decided to check for another cause of my symptoms set my mind in motion. Could there be something my care team has been missing? Or is she just being extra cautious?
In a post on its website titled, “Other Conditions to Rule Out,” the National Multiple Sclerosis Society highlights other health issues that can mimic MS. When checking out the list, I noted that not all are demyelinating diseases or produce lesions. With that information, some diagnoses were ruled out for me right away.
In the early years of my symptoms, doctors speculating on my diagnosis thought I had fibromyalgia. Fortunately, they did not diagnose me with it. If they had, it would have been much more difficult for me to receive disability compensation.
Also, early on, with no visible lesions appearing on the MRI, the doctors looked at a possible Chiari malformation that would have involved an incredibly risky surgery. They weren’t even positive the surgery was an effective option, so I opted not to proceed.
As it stands right now, it is likely that PPMS is my correct diagnosis. But I will continue to research other illnesses and figure out why my brain lesions are located where they are. I will never give up on my search for answers about my condition. I hope you will keep researching your own!
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Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.