Many patients report a history of other conditions such as migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, and mood and anxiety disorders, before being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). According to a new study, these symptoms could be warning signs of MS and help in its early detection.
“Prodrome” is a set of early symptoms indicating onset of disease. There is an accepted prodrome for several other neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which help in their early detection.
In the study “Five years before multiple sclerosis onset: Phenotyping the prodrome,” published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal, researchers reviewed the health records of MS patients from four Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia.
Researchers took a closer look at the history of these patients, prior to their MS diagnosis, to help identify a cluster of conditions that can serve as an early indication of MS.
The health records of 14,000 MS patients and 67,000 healthy individuals from 1984 to 2014 were reviewed.
Results showed that fibromyalgia was more than three times, and irritable bowel syndrome almost two times, more prevalent in individuals who later developed MS, compared to the healthy control group.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that causes pain in muscles and soft tissues (widespread musculoskeletal pain); in irritable bowel syndrome, patients experience abdominal pain due to altered bowel movements. Both of these conditions arise due to improper communication between the nerves and the brain.
Furthermore, in MS patients, researchers found that the history of migraine headaches and mood or anxiety disorders (including bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety) also were markedly higher prior to an MS diagnosis.
“The existence of such ‘warning signs’ are well-accepted for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, but there has been little investigation into a similar pattern for MS. We now need to delve deeper into this phenomenon. … We want to see if there are discernible patterns related to sex, age, or the ‘type’ of MS they eventually develop,” Helen Tremlett, PhD, professor in the division of neurology at UBC and the study’s lead author, said in a press release.