Other Conditions’ Symptoms May Foretell Onset of MS, Canadian Data Suggest

Other Conditions’ Symptoms May Foretell Onset of MS, Canadian Data Suggest

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.

Now, researchers from The University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, conducted the first study to identify the prodrome for MS. The study was funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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.

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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.


  1. Michael Cavallo says:

    I had Bell’s Palsy a year or two before my MS symptom started. Was that significant at all?

    This was back in the mid 70s. I was diagnosed with PPMS in ’76 or ’77. I’m now 60 and pretty much disabled.

  2. Deborah Tefertiller says:

    I had what was finally diagnosed as “atypical Bell’s Palsy” in 2012 which my neurologist who diagnosed me with MS in 2018 said sounded like my CIS – the first symptomology of MS.

    • Linda says:

      I was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy in college at age 19 (1986), then diagnosed in 2000 with RRMS. The neuro said because I had half of my face paralyzed and topically numb that it wasn’t diagnosed correctly and that was my first exacerbation of MS.

  3. Diana Soltisova says:

    My very first depression+enxiety started in 1998. Also, I suffered from migraine! Closer to being diagnosed in 2008 with MS, migren attacks got worse, almost unbearable!
    Now days I’m trying to handle my anxiety& depression with Yoga&Meditation. Migraine is still part of my life, less then before though!!!

  4. Aladin says:

    Be very careful lumping very common diagnosis such as migraine, depression and anxiety, are fibromyalgia as prodroms of MS. Your data might very well cause more depression/ anxiety, migraines and fibromyalgia.

  5. Aloma Parker says:

    I was had a bout with MS 40 years ago with no problem since! A neurologist sent into DDS here in Atlanta that I had MS and should not be allowed to drive a car! Dr. never ran a test for MS on me and never gave me any medication! I am not disabled in any way! He got my license revoked and I have had a lot of depression since! The depression started when I lost my drivers license! My name is Aloma Parker

  6. Zara Frenkiel says:

    I had a lot of mis-diagnosed muscle-skeletal episodes (sciatica several times, but mostly numbness in both legs and lower belly; tightness “bear hug” in chest or concrete chest as I described it – sent to cardiology & pronounced A1 fit, never followed up…urinary incontinence.) I had my doctor’s reports printed out when I turned 50 and these show different symptoms which are from MS but the GPs didn’t link them together. I’m 67 now. the latest symptoms were: brownish-yellowish vision. Went away with eye drops; sparkling crescent and bad nausea, but NO PAIN in head. I had instances where I would start walking, then my leg would stop and it took a few minutes to get it moving again.I was finally diagnosed with RRMS in 2013 when I couldn’t raise my left arm very well. I could send you my symptoms if wanted. I think the program is valid.

  7. D.G. says:

    I was dx’d with probable lupus and fibromyalgia at the same time 20+ yrs ago and had IBS w/ migraines prior to that. Positive eye changes and MRI (+) lesions but still no treatment.

  8. Lisa says:

    I was 18 when diagnosed but had symptoms when I was at least 13 years old. 19 years after being diagnosed I see the Drs and researchers are still grabbing at straws. Just find a cure.

  9. Rachel says:

    I have RRMS and was diagnosed in November 2002. I have an identical twin sister and we’ve ALWAYS been the same, grew up in the exact same environment, ate the same things, been exposed to the same elements, had the same vaccinations, etc.. The ONLY difference is that I went through a major depression (following a break-up) a few years prior to being diagnosed. I’ve always thought that there might be a link to this…?
    I have MS and my twin sister doesn’t…. It’s been (still is) VERY difficult for both of us.

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