People with multiple sclerosis can show signs of something wrong 5 years before the onset of disease, much earlier than previously thought, according to a new analysis of health records from people with the condition. The new research is a first step to help doctors identify red flags and start interventions earlier. This could point researchers in a new direction for finding the cause of the disease.
The researchers examined health records of 14 000 people with multiple sclerosis from BC, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia over a 20-year period and compared them to the health records of 72 000 people without the disease, looking for a prodrome.
During the phase before multiple sclerosis is medically recognized, patients tend to visit their physicians, be admitted to a hospital, and fill prescriptions more than the general population. Going forward, the team of researchers will try to understand why these patients had been using the health care system differently, and whether there are trends in illnesses reported and prescriptions filled that point to a specific set of symptoms that doctors could use to help identify multiple sclerosis earlier.
The study, “Health-care use before a first demyelinating event suggestive of a multiple sclerosis prodrome,” was published in Lancet Neurology (www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(17)30076-5/fulltext).
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