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The Differential Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis

Rolak, Loren A. MD*; Fleming, John O. MD

doi: 10.1097/01.nrl.0000254705.39956.34

Objective: This article will discuss the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS), with particular attention to differentiating it from other diseases that can mimic it.

Methods: We reviewed our own data, as well as the published experience on the differential diagnosis of MS and the most common errors leading to misdiagnosis.

Results: Psychiatric diseases are mistaken for multiple sclerosis more often than any other conditions. Other multifocal illnesses or white-matter diseases are seldom confused with multiple sclerosis.

Conclusion: Neurologists are most likely to misdiagnose multiple sclerosis in patients who have psychiatric problems or who have uncommon presentations of common diseases such as migraine, stroke, or neuropathies.

From the *Marshfield Multiple Sclerosis Center, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wisconsin; and †Neurology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Loren A. Rolak, MD, Marshfield Clinic, 1000 N. Oak Avenue, Marshfield, WI 54449. E-mail:

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.