Study suggests in many cases MS starts long before the diagnosis

June 28, 2021
Researchers set out to explore the occurrence of diseases and symptoms in the five years before diagnosis in patients with multiple sclerosis in a case-control study. They found that MS patients are often diagnosed years after their first demyelinating event. The results of the study could open up possibilities to optimize MS treatment.

It has been evident for some time that patients with MS show significantly higher numbers of physician visits and hospital admissions even years before the first diagnosis as compared to healthy control persons. In recent years, specialists have seen this prediagnosis period as a possible phase of early symptoms prior to disease onset.

Using ambulatory claims data, researchers assessed the differences in the occurrence of diseases and symptoms in the five years before first diagnosis in patients with MS compared to patients with two other autoimmune diseases, Crohn disease and psoriasis, and individuals without these diseases.

Forty-three ICD-10 codes were recorded more frequently for patients with MS before diagnosis compared to controls without autoimmune disease. Many of these findings were confirmed in a comparison to the other control groups. A high proportion of these ICD-10 codes represent symptoms suggestive of demyelinating events or other neurologic diagnoses. 

The findings suggest that patients with MS are frequently not diagnosed at their first demyelinating event but often years later. Symptoms and physician encounters before MS diagnosis seem to be related to already ongoing disease rather than the early signs of disease onset. 

The findings were published in the journal Neurology.

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