Time matters in multiple sclerosis: diagnose early to maximise brain health

14 Feb 2019

AMA members are advised of a new guide for GPs on the diagnosis and management of Multiple sclerosis (MS).

Early diagnosis is crucial to long term brain health. However, symptoms of multiple sclerosis are varied and it is therefore difficult to diagnose. There is also a perception that little can be done to treat multiple sclerosis. This is not the case.

This concise guide provides advice for GPs, including how to:

  1. Identify symptoms that may indicate multiple sclerosis in a timely manner
  2. Refer patients to a specialist neurologist and MS clinic
  3. Follow up with patients to provide ongoing care and support their brain healthy lifestyle.

The guide is based on an evidence-based international consensus report, Brain Health: time matters in multiple sclerosis, which describes a strategy to maximise lifelong brain health and includes recommendations on how to achieve this goal. Key points of relevance to GPs are highlighted in the short guide.

The diagnosis, treatment and management of multiple sclerosis is changing rapidly. There are currently more than 12 medications available on the PBS in Australia.

By minimising delays in diagnosis and referral to a specialist, you can help to maximize brain health and improve the lives of people with MS.

To find out more please visit the MS Brain Health website.      

Key facts about Multiple sclerosis:

  • Is a neurological condition affecting the central nervous system (brain, optic nerve and spinal cord) that affects more than 25,600 Australians
  • Is the most common chronic neurological condition diagnosed in young adults
  • Is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40
  • Affects mainly women, with three in every four diagnoses
  • Varies significantly from person to person: for some people, it is a disease that comes and goes in severity with periods of unpredictable relapse and remission, while for others it means a progressive decline over time
  • Includes a variety of symptoms such as severe pain, walking difficulties, debilitating fatigue, partial blindness and thinking and memory problems.
  • Is more treatable and manageable than ever before, especially with a swift diagnosis and take up of new treatment options.