Study: MS begins to affect patients sooner than expected

April 21, 2017
People with multiple sclerosis can show signs of something wrong five years before the onset of disease, according to a new analysis of health records from people with the condition. The findings are a first step to identifying red flags to help doctors screen for the disease and start interventions earlier. This could point researchers in a new direction for finding the root cause of the disease.
 
The researchers at the University of British Columbia, in Canada, examined health records of 14,000 people with MS from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia during a 20-year period and compared them to the health records of 72,000 people without the disease.
 
They were looking for a prodrome, an early set of symptoms that can indicate the onset of a disease. Prodromes have been identified for other neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The recognition of these prodromes has provided clues about how the diseases might begin and has stimulated new research into causes or triggers.
 
This study of patients from across Canada revealed that there is a phase where people begin to show symptoms before MS is medically recognized. During this phase patients tend to visit their physicians, be admitted to a hospital and fill prescriptions more than the general population.
 
Going forward, the researchers will try to understand why these patients had been using the healthcare system differently, and whether there are trends in illnesses reported and prescriptions filled that point to a specific set of symptoms that doctors could use to help identify MS earlier.
 
The findings were published in the journal Lancet Neurology.

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