Awareness of certain symptoms, particularly gait disorders and depression, could be critical for reducing the time it takes to diagnose multiple sclerosis after a patient first contacts a healthcare provider, research shows.
In the past 30 years, there has been a major decrease in the time from the onset of MS symptoms to diagnosis. However, many MS patients today still experience delays before being properly diagnosed. Four out of 10 patients report more than two years passing between symptom onset and diagnosis.
Other studies have found that insurance coverage, living in remote rural areas, and public transportation shortages can create major obstacles for MS patients to access proper care. Additionally, it is likely there are obstacles within the healthcare systems that can lead to a domino effect of delays in MS diagnosis.
Now, a team led by researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland has studied the chain of events from when a patient initially seeks care for symptoms until an MS diagnosis is confirmed.
Using data from 522 participants in the Swiss MS Registry, the team examined the steps after the first clinical contact with a healthcare provider to identify delaying factors in MS diagnosis.
“Our study is among the first to query persons with multiple sclerosis on how they responded after noticing their first symptoms,” the researchers wrote.
Results showed that patients mostly contacted their general practitioner first (67%), who often referred them to a neurologist for diagnostic testing. These patients had the same diagnostic times as those who contacted neurologists directly first.
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