Is it Multiple Sclerosis?
You’ve noticed yourself stumbling a few times (maybe you’ve even had a couple of falls). You’ve had moments of confusion. Perhaps your vision has been a bit blurry. Your legs have been tingly and numb. Maybe you’ve even had some weird sensations, like your legs feeling soaking wet, even though they are bone dry. You may have even experienced some burning pain in your limbs.
Weird symptoms send you searching for answers
Or a constricting feeling in your chest or rib cage. Or maybe you’ve experienced a new level of tiredness, a fatigue that encompasses your whole body, making any action you might take seem nearly impossible. There are many symptoms that people begin to experience that drive them to search the internet for clues to their cause. Even some light research is enough to make them start wondering: Is this MS?
Fear of the unknown
In my long time writing about my life with multiple sclerosis, I’ve gotten many inquiries from people that have experienced a symptom or number of symptoms that, after some googling, made them suspect that they, too, have MS. It can be a terrifying thought - an autoimmune disease with no cure! Not knowing what is causing your body to malfunction can be even worse than knowing that the cause is MS. So, the drive to find a culprit is extremely strong. It’s something I, and most people with MS, have been through. Not knowing what is wrong with you, and this may sound strange to some, can actually cause many people to feel an extreme sense of relief when they finally get that diagnosis. Knowing what’s wrong allows you to finally fight back; it allows you to take a little control back.
Do I have MS?
But the thing about diagnosing multiple sclerosis is that it’s not easy. Not one bit. When people ask me, “Is it MS?” I almost always end up saying “maybe”. Many of the symptoms associated with MS can also be caused by other illnesses. In fact, diagnosing MS is as much about eliminating other possible causes as it is having some kind of definitive proof that it’s MS. Unfortunately, even experts can have difficulty diagnosing MS, so trying to do so by looking at a list of symptoms on the internet is impossible. That doesn’t mean that all that research is in vain though: if you’ve gotten far enough to think that it’s possibly MS, then you can take some important next steps.
What to do if you think you have MS
If you do think you’re experiencing MS symptoms, talk to your doctor. Don’t be afraid to say that you’ve read a little and it sounds like MS. This is the world we live in; we have access to a tremendous amount of information (and misinformation) at our fingertips. Doctors are used to hearing that kind of thing. Bring it up, share your concerns. Be ready to see a specialist though - an MS diagnosis is normally done by a neurologist (and I cannot stress enough how important it is to see a specialist, particularly one who deals with MS. Not all doctors are created equal!).
How is MS diagnosed?
Typically, MS is diagnosed by looking at the results of three different tests: MRI, evoked potentials, and a spinal tap. All of these are common and nothing to fear. It’s also important to not fear the diagnosis. We are currently in the best place we’ve ever been when it comes to treating MS, particularly for the newly diagnosed. I guarantee you that you will feel better being diagnosed as opposed to not knowing. You will have to talk to your doctors and advocate for yourself. Be sure to share as many details as possible. Diagnosing MS may be something that takes a lot more than an internet search, but that search can be a crucial first step in helping yourself.
Thanks so much for reading and always feel free to share!
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