They are called prodromes, symptoms that appear even years before a certain pathological condition fully manifests itself and is diagnosed. There is evidence for Parkinson’s disease as well as some autoimmune disorders, but for multiple sclerosis there is only preliminary data. To shed light on what could be warning signs, a French team conducted a large study on the medical records of tens of thousands of people, identifying 5 conditions that appear to be more frequent in people who will develop multiple sclerosis years earlier of diagnosis: depression, sexual disorders, constipation, cystitis and other urinary tract infections. The studio was just posted on Neurologythe journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
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Possible warning signs
The researchers took into consideration the medical records of over 20 thousand people with multiple sclerosis, scanning them for symptoms or diseases (a total of 113 were considered) in the 5 years preceding the diagnosis. Their frequency was then compared with the data resulting from the medical records of people diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and lupus erythematosus (two autoimmune conditions more frequent in women, just like multiple sclerosis), as well as with the records of patients with none of these conditions.
What emerged was that 5 conditions were statistically associated with the subsequent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. In particular, people who developed the autoimmune disease suffered more from depression (+22%), constipation (+50%), urinary tract infections (+38%), sexual dysfunction in the 5 years prior to diagnosis. (+47%) and cystitis (+21%) compared to people without multiple sclerosis.
Towards early diagnosis
The authors of the research believe that these conditions may be prodromes of multiple sclerosis, or even symptoms of its initial stage. However, these disorders are also found in the early stages of other pathologies (they do not allow us to distinguish, for example, between those who will develop Crohn’s disease or lupus erythematosis) and in general they are quite common in the population. Therefore they alone do not constitute a unique signature for an early diagnosis nor, as commented by the author Celine Louapre of the Sorbonne University in Paris, all those who present these symptoms will develop multiple sclerosis. In any case, having identified these first signals can help to understand the etiological factors, the biological mechanisms that occur in the body before the typical symptoms of the disease develop.
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“This type of study on the prodromes of multiple sclerosis has the aim of identifying ‘markers’ in order to make an early diagnosis, anticipating the typical symptoms of the disease as much as possible – specified Maria Trojano, director of the Department of Neuroscience of the Polyclinic of Bari , not involved in the study – This study adds a piece to our knowledge, and others will be added in the future, until we are able to create an algorithm that allows us to reach the diagnosis early and precisely”.