Lupus vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What’s the Difference?

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune condition that affects over 200,000 people in the United States, approximately 90% of whom are women. Due to the rare nature of this disease, it is sometimes misdiagnosed in its early stages. One condition it’s often mistaken for is multiple sclerosis (MS), a more common autoimmune condition affecting over one million Americans.

Lupus is primarily associated with chronic joint pain, skin rashes, fevers, and hair loss, as well as neurological issues such as headaches, seizures, strokes, and personality changes. While these symptoms are less common in people with MS, certain issues typically associated with this condition, such as numbness, blurred vision, weakness, and balancing difficulties, can also present with other common lupus symptoms.

Both lupus and MS tend to cause periodic flare-ups of symptoms such as fatigue and pain. Additionally, both conditions can affect the nervous system and lead to a variety of neurological problems. Certain symptoms, however, are more indicative of one disease than the other, and it’s important to look out for them to ensure that your doctor has the information necessary to make an accurate diagnosis.

Many people with lupus experience a rash on their cheeks and nose that can act as a telltale sign of the disease. Knowing whether a person’s numbness, weakness, or other neurological problems are associated with seizures or strokes can also help to determine whether lupus or MS is the more likely cause.

Several diagnostic procedures are also available to confirm the cause of symptoms. An MRI scan of the brain and spinal cord may be used to diagnose either lupus or MS. If this scan doesn’t provide enough information, your doctor may perform a lumbar puncture to check for MS antigens. For lupus, several blood tests and the AVISE Connective Tissue Disease test can check for antibody measures and other signs of the disease.

If you begin to experience symptoms of either of these conditions, it’s important to speak to a doctor as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment with a neurologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Ambulatory Care Center, please call (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.