Understanding these first symptoms could aid in an early diagnosis, allowing treatment to begin at initial stages of disease.
The study, “Fatigue, Sleep Disorders, Anaemia and Pain in the Multiple Sclerosis Prodrome,” was published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal.
Some neurological diseases have a prodrome, or suite of symptoms that can emerge before the disorder’s more classical symptoms.
In recent years, emerging evidence has suggested a prodrome for MS, with early symptoms that include migraine, mood disorders, and fibromyalgia. Given the relative infancy of this field, symptoms that could potentially constitute the MS prodrome are still being defined.
Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Canada examined whether four specific symptoms — fatigue, sleep disorders, anemia, and pain — could be part of the MS prodrome based on their presence in the five years preceding an MS clinical diagnosis. These four were chosen because they are relatively common among people already diagnosed with MS.
They used administrative and clinical databases in British Columbia, Canada, collecting data on a total of 7,829 people diagnosed with MS (patients) and 36,399 without MS (controls); most (over 70%) were female. The team examined the frequency of these symptoms during the five years prior to the first recorded demyelinating event (loss of myelin, a classic first MS symptom) or MS symptom onset/diagnosis. In other words, they examined the prodromal period.
Results showed that during these five years, all four symptoms were significantly more common in patients than in controls. Fatigue was 3.37 times more common, sleep disorders were 2.61 times more common, anemia was 1.53 times more common, and pain was 2.15 times more common among patients compared with the control group.
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