Autoimmune disease of the central nervous system, multiple sclerosis, is due to a disruption of the immune system: the latter attacks the brain and nerve fibers by destroying the myelin sheaths to protect neurons. Patients gradually lose the use of their limbs, have problems with vision, motor skills and sensitivity.
A disease that is difficult to diagnose
Scale enlargement, multiple sclerosis is a difficult to diagnose disease. This difficulty is based on the coexistence of symptoms associated with other diseases, but also on the existence of various forms of multiple sclerosis. In addition, there is currently no specific additional investigation to confirm the disease.
It can take months between the appearance of the first symptoms and the diagnosis. But it sometimes happens that some people with other pathologies are wrongly diagnosed as suffering from this neurodegenerative disease.
It is for his patients wandering around for treatment that researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) and at the University of Vermont have been interested. In a study to appear in the journal Multiple sclerosis and related disorders, they analyzed the cases of 241 patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and were referred to Cedars-Sinai and UCLA clinics for one year. In particular, the researchers tried to determine how many patients had made an incorrect diagnosis and to identify the common characteristics of the patients.
"The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is difficult, and the symptoms and findings of MRI may resemble those of other conditions, such as stroke, migraine, and vitamin B12 deficiency," says Marwa Kaisey. directed the study. "You must exclude any other diagnosis, and it is not a perfect science."
Health effects of patients
By analyzing patients' medical data, the researchers discovered that many of those previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis did not meet the criteria for this diagnosis. They spent an average of 4 years being treated for multiple sclerosis before they received the correct diagnosis.
In most cases it was a migraine (16%). A radiologically isolated syndrome followed: if the people suffering from it do not have symptoms of multiple sclerosis, the imaging tests are similar to those of patients with multiple sclerosis. Other correct diagnoses include spondyloarthritis (a disorder of the vertebrae) and neuropathy (nerve damage).
These medical wanderings are not without consequences for the health of patients. Of those who had made a wrong diagnosis, 72% had been prescribed multiple sclerosis treatments. 48% of these patients received treatments with a known risk of developing progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy, a serious disease of the white brain, caused by a viral infection. "I saw patients suffering from side effects from medicines they used for a disease they didn't have"says Dr. Kaisey. "In the meantime, they received no treatment for what they had. The costs for the patient are huge, medical, psychological, financial."
These diagnostic errors have financial costs, which the researchers alone estimate at nearly $ 10 million.
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