Diagnosing multiple sclerosis has come a long way since it was first discovered. Even so, it is still possible to misdiagnose the disease. Cir wasn't misdiagnosed, but he was told early on that he could not have MS, because he was male and African-American.
That was back in the eighties. I suppose when Richard Pryor and Montel Williams told the world they had MS, that all changed. No,.... I'm sure there were others who were diagnosed with MS before that. African-American males, however, are thought to be the least likely group to develop the condition.
Young, adult, white women are the most likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune diseases. White men are next, then African-American women. And last of all African-American men.
When you seek medical attention and your doctor suspects it might be MS, they will usually begin by taking a detailed medical history. They will also do thorough physical and neurological exams. After that, there are several diagnostic tests such as blood work and an MRI, that are usually done, as well.
Other diseases need to be ruled out before reaching a definite diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Several early signs common to MS are also common to other conditions, like epilepsy, tumors, and vitamin B-12 deficiency, to name just a few. There are even other conditions, such as Lupus; another autoimmune disease, and Lyme disease, which look very similar to MS on an MRI.
A diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is not an easy one for doctors to come by. Up until a few years ago, doctors were reluctant to even tell their patients that they had the disease. I guess the treatment options were so limited and the outcome was believed to be so bleak, that they hated giving a diagnosis like multiple sclerosis to unsuspecting young people in the prime of their lives.
Chrystal Gomes, a young comedian, had such an experience. Her doctor just walked in and told her that she had multiple sclerosis, then turned right around and left the room. She didn't even know what it was. She sat in stunned silence until the nurse later came in and explained to Chrystal why the doctor had acted the way he did. Apparently he had just given the same diagnosis to two other patients earlier that same day. I imagine he felt bad to have to do it. Read more about her story here.
Chrystal knew her doctor probably felt bad about diagnosing multiple sclerosis on three separate occasions. However, she was the one who had the disease, not him. How did he think she felt? She had a right to be treated with respect and at least her questions answered. Hopefully doctors have come to realize this. No matter how hard it is for them to say it, doctors need to put their feelings aside and help their patients understand what they are facing. There are so many options for treatment available, it would be doubtful that a doctor would react that way now.
When diagnosing multiple sclerosis, doctors should realize that you, as the patient, are most important. Your feelings and state of mind need to be considered. Doctors and hospitals need to have in place a plan for helping you deal with your diagnosis.
Chrystal knew her doctor probably felt bad about diagnosing multiple sclerosis. But she was the one who had MS, not him. How did he think she felt? Hopefully doctors will come to realize this. No matter how hard it is for them to say it, doctors need to put their feelings aside.
When diagnosing multiple sclerosis, you as the patient are most important. Your feelings and state of mind need to be considered. Doctors and hospitals need to have in place a plan for helping you deal with your diagnosis.
Some may take a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis very hard. You may break down and cry or you may become fearful or angry because you don't know what it is or what's going to happen to you. You may be just plain relieved that you finally have a name for whatever symptoms you've been having. And also, that you aren't suffering from something fatal like a deadly brain tumor.
Cir's diagnosis went something like this. He had been having symptoms on and off since his late teens and early twenties. Mainly, he seemed to always have a feeling of being slightly off balance, and occasional extreme fatigue. He eventually developed a problem with the vision in his right eye and went to see an eye doctor.
The optometrist suggested Cir see an ophthalmologist after examining him. Cir had a large blind spot in his eye which is typical of optic neuritis and which we would also learn much later, is an early symptom of multiple sclerosis.
The ophthalmologist told him it looked like MS. This however, wasn't really an official diagnosis. It was more of an observation based on the small amount of information the doctor had at the time.
The neuritis went away on it's own and Cir didn't see a doctor for any of his other symptoms until quite a few years later. By then his balance problems were becoming much more pronounced making it difficult to walk sometimes. He worked at a nutrition store at the time and had looked up his symptoms in a nutritional handbook, and suspected MS was, in fact, the reason for them. Just in case, he began taking the suggested supplements and other alternative treatments that were thought to be helpful for MS.
We both feel that this decision most likely is the reason he has progressed so slowly over the years. Of course, we can't say that for sure, however, I think it's a pretty good theory. Maybe somewhere down the line a researcher will look at statistics for people with MS who started traditional treatments after using alternatives before receiving a diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. You never know.
Want to read the rest of the story of Cir's diagnosis, go to part 2, here.
Want to read about the Prognosis for Multiple Sclerosis? Click here.