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.
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