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What is the difference between multiple sclerosis (MS) and strokes?

ANSWER

At first glance, it might not seem like multiple sclerosis (MS) and strokes have a lot in common. When you have a stroke, a blocked or burst blood vessel cuts off the blood supply to part of your brain. With MS, you have a lifelong disease where your immune system, your body's defense against germs, attacks the nerves in your brain and spinal cord.

Two very different conditions, but they can look and feel alike. That's because they both harm your brain. The symptoms of MS and strokes can be close enough that even doctors don't always get it right.

It's important to know the difference. While you can wait to talk to your doctor about an MS flare-up, waiting to get treatment for a stroke can be a matter of life and death.

SOURCES:

National Stroke Association: "What Is Stroke?" "Signs and Symptoms of Stroke."

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Definition of MS," "Multiple Sclerosis FAQs," "MS Symptoms," "Vision Problems."

MS Society: "Symptoms of MS are mistaken for other conditions, survey reveals."

The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers: "CMSC INforMS: Multiple sclerosis vs. stroke, differences in symptoms, causes, and treatments."

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: "Relapse."

Mayo Clinic: "Stroke."

Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky on September 27, 2019

SOURCES:

National Stroke Association: "What Is Stroke?" "Signs and Symptoms of Stroke."

National Multiple Sclerosis Society: "Definition of MS," "Multiple Sclerosis FAQs," "MS Symptoms," "Vision Problems."

MS Society: "Symptoms of MS are mistaken for other conditions, survey reveals."

The Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers: "CMSC INforMS: Multiple sclerosis vs. stroke, differences in symptoms, causes, and treatments."

Multiple Sclerosis Trust: "Relapse."

Mayo Clinic: "Stroke."

Reviewed by Christopher Melinosky on September 27, 2019

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