Road To Diagnosis
I am not a trained medical professional. I am an MS patient, Snowflake, Warrior, and a self proclaimed Gladiator.
The path to a MS diagnosis is as varied as there are MS Snowflake Warriors. It will depend on the presenting symptoms, the types of medical professional help sought, and the skills of the medical professionals involved. The mix of these factors can cause a diagnosis to take anywhere from days to decades.
I have explained that MS patients each have a unique set of symptoms and a unique level of severity of each symptom. A symptom can involve any body part or group of body parts. Pain, numbness, pins and needles sensations, and loss of function can all be part of a symptom, or not. Seems to include anything that can go wrong, right? Everything depends on the locations of lesions. This can cause presenting symptoms to appear as other ailments delaying diagnosis, leading to a misdiagnosis, and delaying treatment. It also makes MS patients second guess every ailment past and current as to if each is MS progression, an MS flare, or neither.
Personally, I see my first possible MS flare as a sudden, unexplainable, neck muscle pain and loss of function event while in college. I see other possible flares as a balance issue in my early 20s, an unexplained wide abdominal pain in my early 30s, Bell’s Palsy in my late 30s, and mobility impairment and sometimes balance problem periods in my 40s and early 50s. I sought various medical help for each of these episodes. All but the last episode of symptoms eventually cleared from everyday life. Before the last flare, most were given an individual diagnosis and that diagnosis’ treatment. When a diagnosis could not be found or when a symptom did not fit, the medical professionals suggested a variety of next actions including another doctor, another test, time, watch for worsening, and repeating an expensive test at a later time. Each of these events fall into the range of recognized MS symptoms and each followed a period of increased and prolonged stress, a common MS flare trigger.
I was diagnosed in 2017 with a flare that has left me with a drop foot and impaired dominant hand. I used humor at times with the individual falls and such, but most of my symptoms gave others including household members opportunities to ridicule me. In time, I am sure I will be able to include humor in my path to diagnosis story. I just cannot do so now.