Medical history reveals multiple sclerosis begins to impact patients sooner

April 20, 2017
Demyelination by MS. The CD68 colored tissue shows several macrophages in the area of the lesion. Original scale 1:100. Credit: Marvin 101/Wikipedia

People with multiple sclerosis can show signs of something wrong five 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, published today in Lancet Neurology, is a first step to identifying red flags to help doctors screen for the disease and start interventions earlier. This could point researchers in a new direction for finding the root cause of the disease.

"Proving that with multiple sclerosis have already changed their behaviour in the five years before even the earliest medical recognition of the condition is very important because it means we have to look beyond those five years to understand how it is caused," said Helen Tremlett, senior author of the study and a professor in the department of medicine at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health.

Multiple sclerosis is thought to be an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the protective coating, known as myelin, around brain cells. Once a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a physician will try to pinpoint the onset of the disease, sometimes known as the patient's first demyelinating event, and can include problems with vision or motor control.

The researchers examined records of 14,000 people with multiple sclerosis from B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia over a 20-year period and compared them to the of 72,000 people without the disease. They were looking for something called a prodrome, an early set of symptoms that can indicate the onset of a .

Prodromes have been identified for other neurological conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases. The recognition of these prodromes has provided clues about how the diseases might begin and has stimulated new research into causes or triggers.

This study of patients from across Canada revealed that there is a phase where people begin to show symptoms before multiple sclerosis is medically recognized. During this phase patients tend to visit their physicians, be admitted to a hospital and fill prescriptions more than the general population.

"There's something going on here that makes this population of people unique," said José Wijnands, first author of the manuscript, a postdoctoral fellow and a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research trainee.

"When other have a prodrome, it suggests that something may be happening," said Tremlett. "We hope to uncover what this might be in multiple ."

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 earlier.

Explore further: Children with and without multiple sclerosis have differences in gut bacteria

Related Stories

Children with and without multiple sclerosis have differences in gut bacteria

May 16, 2016
In a recent study, children with multiple sclerosis had differences in the abundance of specific gut bacteria than children without the disease. Certain types of bacteria were either more or less abundant in children with ...

Researchers find new gene interaction associated with increased multiple sclerosis risk

March 23, 2017
A person carrying variants of two particular genes could be almost three times more likely to develop multiple sclerosis, according to the latest findings from scientists at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston ...

New research finds the first evidence of a rogue protein in multiple sclerosis

December 2, 2014
In a new study published today in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, a team of researchers led by the University of Surrey, have identified a rogue protein in multiple sclerosis, which attacks the body's central nervous ...

Scientists spot signs that predict worsening multiple sclerosis

March 1, 2017
(HealthDay)—Multiple sclerosis (MS) is more likely to progress to advanced disease among patients who suffer from fatigue and limited use of their legs, new research suggests.

Genetic study finds association between reduced vitamin D and multiple sclerosis risk

August 25, 2015
Genetic findings support observational evidence that lower vitamin D levels are associated with increased risk of multiple sclerosis, according to a new research article by Brent Richards, from McGill University, Canada, ...

Scientists 1 step closer to cell therapy for multiple sclerosis patients

July 24, 2014
Scientists at The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF) Research Institute are one step closer to creating a viable cell replacement therapy for multiple sclerosis from a patient's own cells.

Recommended for you

'Selfish brain' wins out when competing with muscle power, study finds

October 20, 2017
Human brains are expensive - metabolically speaking. It takes lot of energy to run our sophisticated grey matter, and that comes at an evolutionary cost.

Researchers find shifting relationship between flexibility, modularity in the brain

October 19, 2017
A new study by Rice University researchers takes a step toward what they see as key to the advance of neuroscience: a better understanding of the relationship between the brain's flexibility and its modularity.

Want to control your dreams? Here's how

October 19, 2017
New research at the University of Adelaide has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people's chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they're dreaming while it's still happening ...

Brain training can improve our understanding of speech in noisy places

October 19, 2017
For many people with hearing challenges, trying to follow a conversation in a crowded restaurant or other noisy venue is a major struggle, even with hearing aids. Now researchers reporting in Current Biology on October 19th ...

Investigating the most common genetic contributor to Parkinson's disease

October 19, 2017
LRRK2 gene mutations are the most common genetic cause of Parkinson's disease (PD), but the normal physiological role of this gene in the brain remains unclear. In a paper published in Neuron, Brigham and Women's Hospital ...

New procedure enables cultivation of human brain sections in the petri dish

October 19, 2017
Researchers at the University of Tübingen have become the first to keep human brain tissue alive outside the body for several weeks. The researchers, headed by Dr. Niklas Schwarz, Dr. Henner Koch and Dr. Thomas Wuttke at ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.