Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis has come a long way since the disease was first discovered. Even so, it is still possible to misdiagnose MS. Cir wasn't misdiagnosed, but he was told early on that he could not have MS, because he was male and African-American.

Least likely to get MS

That was back in the eighties. I guess when Richard Pryor and Montel Williams told the world they had MS, that all changed. No,...I'm sure there were other male African-Americans who were diagnosed with MS before that. African-American males, however, are the least likely group to get MS.

Young, adult, white women are the most likely to be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. White men are next, then African-American women. And last of all African-American men.


Doctors will usually take a detailed medical history. They will also do a physical and a neurological exam. And there are several diagnostic tests that are usually done. Other diseases are usually 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 a few.


There are even other conditions like Lupus; another autoimmune disease, and Lyme disease, which look very similar to MS on an MRI.

A doctor's nightmare - diagnosing multiple sclerosis

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 MS. I guess the treatment options were so limited and the outcome was believed to be so bleak, they hated to give a diagnosis like multiple sclerosis.

I have what?!

Chrystal Gomes' doctor just told walked in and told her that she had multiple sclerosis and then left the room. She didn't even know what it was. The nurse later came in and told her the reason the doctor had acted the way he did. He had just given the same diagnosis to two other patients on the 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. 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.

Tears, fear, or relief

Some people take a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis very hard. You may cry or you may become fearful 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.


Cir's diagnosis


Cir's diagnosis was something like this. He had been having symptoms on and off since his early twenties. Mainly a feeling of being off balance. He also had neuritis in his right eye.


His optometrist suggested he see an ophthalmologist when he came in for problems with his eye. He had a large blind spot in his right eye which is typical of optic neuritis.


The ophthalmologist told him it looked like MS. This wasn't really an official diagnosis. It was more of an observation based on the small amount of information he had at the time.


The neuritis went away on it's own and Cir didn't see another doctor for any of his symptoms until quite a few years later. By then his balance problems were becoming more pronounced. He had been reading about the symptoms in a nutritional handbook, and suspected MS was the reason. He began taking vitamins and other alternative treatments that were thought to be helpful for MS.

To go to Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis - Part 2, click here.


Want to read about the Prognosis for Multiple Sclerosis? Click here

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