Journal 7, July 2003pages: 489-490
Background: Multiple sclerosis is a chronic demyelinating disease of the central nervous system that presents with variable signs and symptoms. This variability in the clinical presentation may result in misdiagnosis, unnecessary referrals and misleading information to the patients.
Objectives: To identify the types of misdiagnoses made on the presentation of MS.
Methods: Fifty consecutive MS patients were questioned on their early symptoms, their mental status, the disease course until the diagnosis was confirmed, and the different diagnoses they received.
Results: The patients had been referred to 2.2 ± 1.3 specialists before seeing a neurologist, and learned about their disease 3.5 years after the onset of symptoms. Twenty-nine patients (58%) were initially given 41 wrong diagnoses. While the majority of women were misdiagnosed mentally, orthopedic work-up was offered to the men. Misdiagnosis of MS occurred most often in patients who presented with non-specific sensory symptoms that did not conform to a specific neurologic syndrome. The patients emphasized the fact that not knowing worsened their anxiety, whereas receiving the diagnosis enabled them to begin coping with their disease.
Conclusions: MS is often overlooked when patients present with non-specific sensory complaints. The difference in type of misdiagnosis between men and women may reflect a gender-dependent bias in the way physicians interpret sensory complaints.