A neurologist will want to have a patient who’s suspected of having multiple sclerosis undergo an MRI.

A normal MRI result will of course be assuring to the patient.

But can a normal result ever be a false negative?

The MRI Usually Shows MS. Usually.

“Although uncommon, at the beginning of the disease, MRI in a patient with multiple sclerosis can be normal,” says Resham Mendi, MD, a renowned expert in the field of medical imaging, and the medical director of Bright Light Medical Imaging.

“The diagnosis would be made primarily based on symptoms and other lab findings, although the diagnosis is easier to confirm using MRI,” says Dr. Mendi.

This is very sour news for people who wonder if they should feel reassured that their MRI came back negative for multiple sclerosis.

These would be people who, due to various symptoms, have developed anxiety over the possibility of having MS.

Keep in mind that many less serious conditions can cause symptoms that multiple sclerosis can cause – which are quite a few.

One mimicker is underactive thyroid. Though this can be fatal without treatment, it’s also easily managed with a daily pill, and patients can live to 100 as much as anyone else if they take good care of their bodies.

Additional highly treatable conditions that have symptom overlap with MS include carpal tunnel syndrome, fibromyalgia, hypochondria, migraine disorder, pinched nerve in the neck and sleep apnea.

Dr. Mendi continues, “It may just be that in some cases, the symptoms display before there are physical changes in the brain that are detectable on MRI.

“One would expect, however, that the abnormalities would show up in the MRI eventually in a patient with MS.”

MRI Mimickers of MS


There are also conditions that can show up on a brain MRI and look like multiple sclerosis.

In short, the MRI isn’t necessarily the be-all, end-all diagnostic tool for determining the presence of multiple sclerosis.

dr. mendi
Dr. Mendi has published several articles in radiology journals and has expertise in MRI, women’s imaging, musculoskeletal, neurological and body imaging.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.  


Top image: ©Lorra Garrick
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