If it's not MS what else could it be?

Community Member

I know many of you are still in limbo and not yet diagnosed with anything. And I know it must be maddening. I was in limbo only for a very short time period. But even during that time, I remember feeling a bit nuts, wondering what could be causing all these weird symptoms. And in my research on the Internet I did find some plausible alternate explanations. Turns out for me that I did have MS after all but it was interesting to see that some of the symptoms for MS can also be symptoms for other diseases and disorders. So let's take a look at some of these Multiple Sclerosis mimics now.

Type 1 Diabetes: Type one diabetes occurs when the pancreas stops making insulin. Insulin is needed to transform blood sugar into energy. Without insulin, the cells can't get the sugar they need, and too much sugar builds up in the blood. Type one diabetes is usually diagnosed before the age of forty.

There are many commonalities between MS and this type of diabetes and they include:

  • Both diseases have a period of silent disease before the appearance of symptoms and diagnosis of the disease.

  • Both diseases look similar under a microscope. This women's health site reports: "'Previously it was thought that in MS autoimmunity would develop in the central nervous system, and in diabetes it would only be found in the pancreas,' says Dr. Michael Dosch, a senior researcher at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and lead author of the study. 'Much to our surprise, we found that immunologically, type I diabetes and multiple sclerosis are almost the same - in a test tube you can barely tell the two diseases apart."

  • Both diseases are considered to be auto-immune diseases.

  • The usual age range when people are diagnosed with either disease is 20-40 years of age.

  • The symptoms of MS and Type 1 Diabetes can be very similar such as blurred vision, extreme tiredness, and neuropathy.

Note: People who have type one diabetes may have a higher risk of developing MS than are those without diabetes. Some people are now saying that MS and type one diabetes may also have similar genetic causes and environmental risk factors. For more information about these commonalities as well as the differences between MS and type one diabetes follow this link to the MS Society of the UK fact sheet on diabetes and MS.

And please visit Health Central's Diabetes site to find out more about this disease.** Lyme Disease: **

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define Lyme Disease as: "A tick-transmitted inflammatory disorder that begins with a characteristic skin rash, and may be followed weeks to months later by neurologic, cardiac, or joint abnormalities."

Lyme Disease is probably one of the MS mimics which first comes to mind when we think of symptoms which are similar. One Lyme Disease site has this to say about this difficulty with proper diagnosis: "The differential diagnosis can be tricky, as Lyme tests can be falsely negative." In one study where they examined 55 patients who were originally diagnosed with MS, three of those patients were later determined to have Lyme Disease.

Some people are even saying now that it is possible to have both diseases at the same time.

Lyme Disease and Multiple Sclerosis are similar in these ways:

  • Some of the similar symptoms of both diseases can include**:** Numbness or pain in the arms and legs, shaking or twitching, headaches, visual problems, depression, cognitive issues such as slurring of speech, memory problems, trouble speaking or recalling words.
  • Both Multiple Sclerosis and Lyme Disease are diseases of the central nervous system.

  • Both diseases can produce MRI's marked by sclerotic plaques and both diseases involve vascular inflammation within the central nervous system.

  • In the advanced stages of Lyme, it launches an autoimmune attack on the myelin sheath and thereby looks a lot like MS.

To find out more about Lyme Disease and MS take a look at this abstract entitled, "Geo-Statistical Analysis of Possible Spirochetal Involvement in Multiple Sclerosis" by Megan M. Blewett, and Margaret Kilduff.

For a huge listing of medical abstracts about the connection between Lyme Disease and MS please visit this Lyme Disease site.

Fibromyalgia: Fibromyalgia is considered by some to be a syndrome and not a disease. The CDC or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define Fibromyalgia as: "A group of common rheumatoid disorders (not involving the joints) characterized by achy pain, tenderness, and stiffness of muscles."

Here are some similarities between MS and fibromyalgia:

  • Both Fibromyalgia and MS are considered chronic and to be caused by autoimmune issues.

  • Both MS and Fibromyalgia can cause stiffness in extremities, extreme acute fatigue, dizziness, muscle weakness, and depression.

  • There is no known cure for either Fibromyalgia or Multiple Sclerosis.

  • The course of both MS and Fibromyalgia can include periods of remission.

You can find out more about Fibromyalgia on ** Health Central's Chronic Pain site****.


There are so many symptoms associated with Multiple Sclerosis; it is no wonder that some of these symptoms overlap with other diseases, disorders, and medical conditions. If you want to see a full list of alternative diagnoses just follow this link.

How about you? Have you been diagnosed with any of these MS mimics? If you are still in limbo, what diseases and conditions have your doctors ruled out in searching for a cause for your symptoms? Tell us your story. You just may help someone else in the process.