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Mimics Unmasked: 9 Conditions Commonly Mistaken for Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Zahid Rustam

2 min read

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Most medical conditions have overlapping symptoms that can make an accurate diagnosis difficult. Multiple Sclerosis or MS is one such condition. Its neurodegenerative symptoms like numbness, pain, fatigue, slurred speech, mobility issues, and vision problems coincide with a wide variety of medical conditions on the disease spectrum. Consult a neurologist for an effective treatment plan.

Here we look at 10 diverse conditions that are most commonly misinterpreted as MS:

1-Lyme Disease:

A bacterial infection resulting from a tick bite, untreated Lyme Disease often proceeds to affects the nervous system. This results in multiple MS-related symptoms like hand and feet numbness, neck pain and stiffness, severe fatigue, short-term memory loss, speech issues, and even facial paralysis. However, the disease can be confirmed by identifying tick bites and testing for Borrelia burgdorferi (Lyme-causing bacteria) antibodies in the blood.


Also known as ‘the great imitator’ due to symptoms overlapping with multiple conditions, Lupus is often confused for MS due to the chronic headaches and fatigue, muscular pain, swollen joints, and seizures that accompany its usual symptoms of anemia, skin rashes, hair loss, and light sensitivity. The fact that most patients do not exhibit the signature butterfly-shaped rash over the nose and cheeks further complicates a diagnosis. However, checking for kidney problems and lupus-specific blood tests can help identify the disorder.


Commonly affecting people over 60 and caused by cardiac malfunctions, a stroke occurs when the brain’s blood and nutrient supply is cut off. So while major strokes are easy to identify, minor strokes can often be mistaken for MS. Correlated symptoms include numbness in the arm and leg on one side, vision loss, and difficulty walking and speaking.

4-Myasthenia Gravis:

Defective nerve impulse transmissions (messages or signals between the body and brain) to muscles results in progressive muscular weakness. This weakness gradually leads to fatigue, difficulty walking, speaking and eating, dropping eyelids and vision problems. However, unlike MS, the symptoms are not constant throughout the day, worsen at night, and muscular fatigue is experienced only in the affected muscles instead of all over the body.

5-Vitamin B12 Deficiency:

The muscle damage and other nervous symptoms during MS are the result of damage to the myelin sheath: the protective nerve coverings. However, it can also be damaged due to a vitamin B-12 deficiency, which is essential for forming and maintain the myelin sheath. This results in numerous MS-related symptoms like numbness, tingling, muscle weakness and cramping, memory issues, and vision problems. However, B12-induced muscular weakness is more prominent in the legs equally affects both sides instead of one. It can also anemia and a fast heart rate, and is easily identifiable via B12 blood test.


Commonly affecting individuals between 20-40, sarcoidosis is characterised by chronic inflammation in the lungs, skin, liver, and central nervous system. This results is symptoms pertaining to MS like decreased vision and chronic body-wide fatigue. However, sarcoidosis is primarily identified by coughing, wheezing, lumps, sores, or discoloured skin patches, and swollen lymph nodes. A simple lung biopsy can help determine the condition’s existence.

7-Sjogren’s Syndrome:

Chronic fatigue and pain in muscles and joints often cause Sjogren’s to be mistaken for early MS. However, Sjogren’s Syndrome primarily attacks and affects the body’s moisture-producing glands, resulting in non-MS eye and mouth dryness. It can also be easily diagnosed with a lip biopsy.

8-Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorder (NMOSD):

Myelin sheath attacks and damage are a common factor between NMOSD, MS, and a vitamin B12 deficiency, resulting in muscular weakness, sudden eye pain or vision loss, arm and leg numbness, bladder and bowel issues, uncontrollable hiccups and vomiting. However, symptoms are usually more severe with NMOSD, and vision changes equally affect both eyes. An NMO IgG antibody blood tests can help diagnose the condition.


Despite being a sexually transmitted disease, syphilis often manifests as visual disturbances, difficulty walking, slurred speech, tremors, and memory problems. However, the condition can be diagnosed through blood or spinal taps to test for syphilis-related antibodies.

For serious conditions like MS with non-specific diagnostic tests, doctors usually take care to eliminate all possible conditions to avoid mistreatment, which may have negative consequences. However, you can always seek a second opinion if you observe any non-MS related symptoms and vice versa.

You can also book an appointment with a top Neurologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your neural concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Zahid Rustam - Author Dr. Zahid Rustam is among the Best Rehab Medicines in Islamabad. Dr. Zahid Rustam completed his MBBS from Army Medical College and pursued his further education in the UK and USA. Recently, Dr. Zahid has Earned qualification of FIPP WIP USA which is the only recognised Post graduation degree in Interventional pain practice. He is one of only 6 physician in pakistan to earn this Degree.
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