PRESSEPORTAL Presseportal Logo
All Stories
Follow
Subscribe to Technische Universität München

22.06.2021 – 17:20

Technische Universität München

In many cases, MS starts long before the diagnosis

TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY OF MUNICH

Corporate Communications Center

phone: +49 89 289 22562 - email: presse@tum.de - web: www.tum.de

This text on the web: https://www.tum.de/nc/en/about-tum/news/press-releases/details/36707/

Picture: https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1615270

NEWS RELEASE

In many cases, MS starts long before the diagnosis

Multiple sclerosis is often diagnosed years after the first symptoms appear

Years before they are diagnosed, persons with multiple sclerosis (MS) make significantly more visits to doctors and hospitals than others. Specialists have recently discussed whether this might represent a preliminary phase of MS – known as a prodrome. A research team at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has now published results of a study suggesting that, in many cases, the complaints may relate to unrecognized early clinical MS events.

Persons suffering from the autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis can develop various neurological symptoms caused by damage to the nervous system. Especially in early stages, these may include sensory dysfunction such as numbness or visual disturbances. In most patients, MS starts with recurring episodes of neurological disability, called relapses or demyelinating events. These clinical events are followed by a partial or complete remission. Especially in the beginning, the symptoms vary widely, so that it is often difficult even for experienced doctors to interpret them correctly to arrive at a diagnosis of MS.

Above-average numbers of medical appointments

It has been evident for some time, however, that patients with MS show significantly higher numbers of physician visits and hospital admissions even years before the first diagnosis as compared to healthy control persons. In recent years, specialists have seen this pre-diagnosis period as a possible prodromal phase of the disease.

MS often begins far in advance of the diagnosis

A new study carried out by a team working with the neurologist Prof. Bernhard Hemmer at TUM suggests that many complaints prior to diagnosis might not represent a prodromal phase. “Instead, we suspect that unrecognized MS relapses cause these individuals to seek medical attention,” says Prof. Hemmer. “That is because we have found that the physician appointments and hospital admissions frequently involved complaints indicating typical MS symptoms. We believe that many complaints that have been attributed to a prodromal phase are in fact caused by ongoing disease. We therefore believe that, although the disease has not yet been diagnosed, it is fully active and not in a preliminary or prodromal phase.”

A path to an earlier diagnosis

The results of the study could also open up possibilities to optimize MS treatment: “The sooner MS is recognized, the better we can treat the disease,” says first author Dr. Christiane Gasperi, a physician and researcher at the Neuro-Head Center at the TUM Klinikum rechts der Isar. “We now need to take a closer look at which early symptoms of MS might be overlooked. This could allow us to recognize the disease at an earlier stage and thus enable earlier treatment initiation.”

Less frequent respiratory tract infections

Along with the more frequent complaints in the years before an MS diagnosis, the results of the study also showed that persons with MS were actually less likely to seek medical attention for upper respiratory tract infections. “This was unexpected, in view of the fact that MS relapses have sometimes been associated with infections,” says co-first author and Adjunct Teaching Professor Dr. Alexander Hapfelmeier of the TUM Institute of General Practice and Health Services Research. “However, future studies will be needed to determine whether there is a causal link between MS and a degree of protection against certain infections, or whether the health data we analyzed reflect protective behavior adopted by persons with MS.”

Publication:

Systematic Assessment of Medical Diagnoses Preceding the First Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

Christiane Gasperi, Alexander Hapfelmeier, Tanja Daltrozzo, Antonius Schneider, Ewan Donnachie, Bernhard Hemmer

Neurology, 15 June 2021, 96 (24) e2977-e2988

DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000012074

Further information:

The study by Prof. Bernhard Hemmer, Dr. Christiane Gasperi and Dr. Alexander Hapfelmeier was conducted in cooperation with the Bavarian association of registered physicians (KVB), which provided the ambulatory claims data of several thousand persons in Bavaria. The study was funded by:

High-resolution image: https://mediatum.ub.tum.de/1615270

Contact:

Prof. Dr. Bernhard Hemmer

Klinikum rechts der Isar of the

Technical University of Munich (TUM)

Clinic and Polyclinic for Neurology

phone: +49 89 4140 4601

hemmer@tum.de

The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is one of Europe’s leading research universities, with more than 600 professors, 45,000 students, and 11,000 academic and non-academic staff. Its focus areas are the engineering sciences, natural sciences, life sciences and medicine, combined with economic and social sciences. TUM acts as an entrepreneurial university that promotes talents and creates value for society. In that it profits from having strong partners in science and industry. It is represented worldwide with the TUM Asia campus in Singapore as well as offices in Beijing, Brussels, Mumbai, San Francisco, and São Paulo. Nobel Prize winners and inventors such as Rudolf Diesel, Carl von Linde, and Rudolf Mößbauer have done research at TUM. In 2006, 2012, and 2019 it won recognition as a German "Excellence University." In international rankings, TUM regularly places among the best universities in Germany.

More stories: Technische Universität München
More stories: Technische Universität München