Wrong diagnosis...3 common diseases that can be mistaken for multiple sclerosis
I can tell you this for sure: If I found out that a doctor had misdiagnosed me with multiple sclerosis, I would’ve had his license revoked (after giving him a piece of my mind... and my fist). Yet thousands of people are walking around right now, thinking they have an incurable disease... when a cure is within their grasp.
But since most MS symptoms aren’t unique to the disease——and since there’s still no test that can definitively confirm whether you actually have the disease or not——you can’t help but wonder...
What if your MS is a case of mistaken identity?
Because multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system, it has an extensive list of possible symptoms——including everything from blurred vision and muscle weakness, to numbness and loss of coordination, to muscle spasms and balance problems.
Sometimes the symptoms come on suddenly, and sometimes over a period of weeks. Sometimes they hang around for a while, and sometimes they disappear as suddenly as they came on. Sometimes new symptoms appear, and sometimes old symptoms come back again with more intensity.
When it comes right down to it, despite decades of research, the medical community is still scratching its head when it comes to multiple sclerosis. No one really knows what causes it or how to cure it.
But here’s what we do know: It’s classified as an autoimmune disease, which means that your body attacks itself——in this case, it eats away at your myelin sheaths that cover the nerve cells in your brain and spinal cord. Plaques form over the damaged areas, which can short-circuit and interfere with the nervous system. Any number of symptoms can result, including slurred speech, weakness, tremors, and visual impairments.
But there are numerous other conditions that share these symptoms. So before accepting a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, you should rule out some of the other possibilities.
1. Vitamin B12 deficiency
When 57-year-old Suzanne began experiencing numbness in her hands and feet——as well as cramps in her legs——she thought she was developing MS. After all, her sister had been diagnosed with the disease, and those were her sister’s initial symptoms. But when she went to see Dr. Nancy Lonsdorf at her integrative medicine clinic in Iowa, a blood test revealed that Suzanne didn’t have MS——she had a B12 deficiency.
Once she began supplementing with the vitamin, her MS-like symptoms disappeared within three months.
Vitamin B12 wears many hats, but one of its biggest is that it’s essential for proper nerve function. It helps to produce myelin, that insulation around your nerve endings that allows them to communicate. If you don’t have enough B12, the myelin sheath can begin to break down, producing MS-like symptoms (numbness, tingling in the arms and legs, loss of balance, and fatigue).
Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include poor memory, mental fogginess, loss of motivation, apathy, mood swings, low energy, fatigue, muscle weakness, numbness in the extremities, lack of coordination, and hair loss.
Here’s what to do:
If you’re suffering from any of these symptoms, get a B12 blood level test. To be on the safe side, your level should be at least 350 or 400 pg/ml. If you’re deficient, supplement with at least 500 to 1,000 mcg per day.
B12 is abundant in liver, beef, and seafood, just to name a few. Most people get plenty of B12 in their diets (unless, of course, you’re a vegetarian). For most people, the problem occurs because your body stops absorbing it properly. If that’s the case, B12 supplements won’t do you much good, either. Instead, for better absorption, you’ll either have to get B12 shots, over-the-counter B12 patches, sublingual tablets, or nasal sprays.
One final note: If you are a vegan (i.e. eschew all animal foods), you are guilty of nutritional self-abuse. Eat pork, bugs, fish, or anything that growls, grunts, cackles, or moos. Get a life——join the human race.
2. Methanol poisoning
Dizziness, weakness, numbness, vision problems... by now you know that, at first glance, those sound like classic MS symptoms——but you should also know by now not to jump to conclusions. Because as it turns out, those are also classic symptoms of methanol poisoning.
And the worst part?
Millions of people are slowly poisoning themselves—all in the name of “good health”
That’s because methanol poisoning often results from chronic, long-term ingestion of diet sodas and “sugar-free” foods——foods loaded with aspartame.
Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Once the temperature of aspartame reaches 86 degree F, the methanol (also called wood alcohol) changes into formaldehyde and formic acid, both of which are deadly neurotoxins.
Chronic exposure to formaldehyde——even at low levels——has been shown to cause neurological damage. And although formaldehyde can be found in everything from carpeting and paint, to cosmetics and preservatives, the most common source of formaldehyde——by far——is aspartame.
Keeping in mind that formaldehyde is used in embalming, one writer said, “Chemically speaking, it’s as if image-conscious dieters, in their quest for weight loss, were sucking on the toe of a corpse ‘just for the taste of it.’”
If that sounds absurd to you——you’re finally starting to get the picture.
Even the Environmental Protection Agency suggests limiting the consumption of this wood alcohol to 7.8 mg/day. Yet just one liter of a diet soda contains 56 mg of methanol——7 times the “safe” amount.
But that’s just part of the problem. Aspartame also contains an excitatory amino acid called aspartic acid. Studies have shown that consuming aspartame dramatically increases blood levels of excitotoxins. The presence of these excitotoxins ultimately causes the death of the important cells that make up the myelin sheath of the nerve fibers.
The fact that the excitotoxins are in liquid form only makes matters worse because it’s absorbed much faster, and leads to higher blood levels.
Here’s what to do:
You’ll have to go to your doctor to determine if your symptoms really are from methanol poisoning. If they are, prepare to undergo some intensive treatment. Although treatments vary, they can include having your stomach pumped, undergoing dialysis (methanol can wreak havoc on your kidneys), getting anticonvulsants, or taking the “antidote” in the form of ethanol.
But whether you’re experiencing these symptoms or not, stop drinking diet soda——or using any other form of aspartame——now.
3. Lyme disease: The second great imitator
When it comes to Lyme disease, people who suffer from this tick-borne illness can be misdiagnosed for years before doctors find the true culprit. And even then, it’s often not the doctor that discovers the actual problem——it’s the patient.
This disease, known as the second great imitator, can have as many as 75 different symptoms, most of which are shared by any number of neurological conditions——including multiple sclerosis.
It’s even been known to produce the same kind of plaque-like lesions on the brain as MS, leading to many of the symptoms caused by damage to the central nervous system. And that means that even an MRI can steer you in the wrong direction.
In Kathleen Crang’s thesis, “Knowledge and Perception of Lyme Disease in Manitoba: Implications for Risk Assessment,” she detailed reports from all over the world in which patients who had Lyme disease were initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
A closer look at the numbers would suggest that this type of misdiagnosis is more common that anyone ever imagined. Manitoba, for example, has the highest rate of multiple sclerosis in Canada, and one of the lowest rates of Lyme disease. Between 1999 and 2007, only 12 people in Manitoba contracted Lyme disease. However, just to the south in Minnesota, 20 out of every 100,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme every single year. Their U.S. neighbors also have about half as many cases of multiple sclerosis per capita.
Could the health officials in Manitoba be missing something? Crang thinks so. And she’s living proof.
Back in 1999, Crang was diagnosed with MS. However, she noticed that many of her symptoms didn’t fit within the typical MS parameters. Six months later——after doing her own investigating——Crang found out she had Lyme disease and was treated successfully with antibiotics.
Here’s what to do:
If you suspect you might have Lyme disease——or even if you just want to rule it out——have your doctor test you for it. Lyme disease is nothing to mess around with. If you catch it early enough, a round or two of antibiotics should get rid of the bacteria. However, if it goes untreated long enough, more serious symptoms will begin to occur——and they won’t be as easy to knock out.