Symptoms of MS are mistaken for other conditions, survey reveals

Published date: 27 May 2015 at 7:36AM

Many people with MS are misdiagnosed and are left in the dark for years before getting a diagnosis, according to a survey of over 1,500 people with MS, carried out by the MS Society for World MS Day.

Three year wait for some

More than a quarter of people were told by their GP they had a trapped nerve (28%) and about 1 in 10 people were misdiagnosed with depression or anxiety or stress (14%) or told they’d suffered a stroke (11%).

The survey found that 1 in 5 (20%) people had to wait between 1 and 3 years for a diagnosis following their first visit to their GP with symptoms.

1 in 4 people (25%) visited their GP over four times before they were referred to a neurologist for further examination.

We asked people with MS how it felt while they were waiting for their diagnosis - watch their answers below.

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During this period of ‘Limbo-land’ over a third of the people surveyed (42%) turned to Google in an attempt to find out what was wrong, with many finding the information scary and overwhelming.

Upon receiving diagnosis although 81% of people had heard of MS before, one in three (32%) didn’t understand what it was and over half (52%) said they felt anxious with many commenting they thought they would ‘end up in a wheelchair’.

Fast, accurate diagnosis needed

Michelle Mitchell, Chief Executive at the MS Society said:

“Our findings highlight the struggle people go through for years before they get an MS diagnosis. Being misdiagnosed or experiencing symptoms that can’t be explained can put a considerable strain on people’s emotions and health. A fast, accurate diagnosis enables people to take steps to begin to manage their condition, access treatment and take greater control of their lives again.

“People often experience symptoms which interfere with daily life whilst in their prime, when families and careers are developing. While we are aware that MS is a complex condition that isn’t easy to diagnose, we don’t want thousands of people to be left in ‘limbo’ suffering needlessly.

“It’s important for GPs to recognise the warning signs and refer people promptly to a consultant neurologist who can then make an accurate diagnosis. Most people who experience MS-like symptoms won't have the condition but if you're concerned for any reason your GP should still be your first port of call.”

For #WorldMSDay, we asked people to describe some of their first symptoms - watch their answers below or find out more about MS signs and symptoms.

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In the dark

We want to make sure people with MS aren't left #inthedark before diagnosis:

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Page last updated: 02 Oct 2015

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