Editor’s note: “Need to Know” is a series inspired by common forum questions and comments from readers. Have a comment or question about MS? Visit our forum. This week’s question is inspired by the forum topic “Is it an MS Diagnosis or is it something else? ” from July 11, 2018. Have an experience you want to share? Leave a comment here or at the original forum topic.
Recently, someone in a forum that I visit lamented the long wait and many tests she underwent to receive a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis.
To arrive at a confirmed MS diagnosis, many other conditions — described as “mimics” — must first be ruled out. There’s no single test to diagnose MS; it’s known as a “diagnosis of exclusion.”
What is a mimic?
A disease mimic is a condition that shares many symptoms with other diseases.
If a disease has symptoms that are common to three or four other conditions, doctors must make a final determination, known in medical circles as a “differential diagnosis.”
Doctors cannot treat any chronic disease without a confirmed diagnosis for safety reasons. Taking costly and potent medications for the wrong condition could harm your body instead of healing it.
Insurance companies also require formal diagnoses before reimbursing for treatments, surgeries, and prescriptions.
Ruling out disease mimics is also important for a practical reason: specific kinds of diagnoses render different types of results on disability applications.
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