A New Jersey woman says her early signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) were initially written off by doctors — and is hoping her story can help others catch the devastating disease earlier.
Angelina Cubero, 27, from Jersey City, was diagnosed with the disease three years ago at age 24 – but it was a long road. Like many MS sufferers, it took months of uncertainty, trips to emergency rooms, and being passed between doctors before she was given closure.
Her symptoms of brain fog, frequent migraines, and constant pain and numbness in the legs were written off as anxiety for years. Now, she wants others who might be experiencing them to get checked for MS.
The autoimmune disease sees the immune system mistakenly attack the brain and spine’s protective coating — slowly shutting down the body’s communication systems.
‘I would go to the doctor, I would go to the ER, I would go to urgent cares, I would go to my primary doctor, I’d go to a specialist, another specialist, and I wasn’t really getting any answers,’ Ms Cubero told Good Morning America.
Angelina Cubero (pictured) 27, was diagnosed with MS at age 24 after an MRI found lesions and other damage on her brain and spine
Ms Cubero said she had previously told doctors she suffered from brain fog, leg numbing and tingling and migraines but had her symptoms written off by doctors
‘They would say, “You look fine. You don’t look sick. All your tests seemed normal to me” … The only reason they told me was anxiety.’
Finally, an MRI scan she received in 2020 detected multiple lesions and plaque in her brain — signaling that she was suffering from MS.
She said she had never heard of the disease before she found out she was suffering from it.
‘I had to do my own research to figure out what is MS, and that was scary,’ she said.
An estimated 1million Americans are suffering from MS, according to the National MS Society. The disease is also responsible for around 20,000 annual deaths in the US.
It develops when the immune system begins to attack the body’s myelin — which is a protective coating around key parts of the central nervous system, such as the brain and spine.
Over time, the nervous system begins to break down. This causes a person to slowly lose motor function throughout their body.
Many patients will become partially or fully paralyzed after battling the disease over the course of many years.
Other symptoms included seizures, vision issues including blindness, mental health issues and cognitive decline.
While it may seem young, symptoms will usually begin between a person’s 20s and 40s. It could take time before doctors diagnose it.
While Ms Cubero’s symptoms were written off by doctors initially, each can serve as early signals that a person will soon suffer the devastating condition.
But, each of these symptoms are also caused by a multitude of other factors and doctors would warn against assuming the worst for common ailments.
Here are the three warning signs, according to Ms Cubero:
MS is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body’s built-in protection from outside invaders begins to attack the myelin, coating on the brain, spine and nerves that protects it from being damaged
Defined by sudden bouts of confusion, forgetfulness, trouble concentrating and a lack of mental sharpness, brain fog is a common symptom of MS.
Nicknamed ‘cog fog’ by MS sufferers, the symptom can leave people losing hours of their time trying to complete simple tasks.
They may also have trouble remembering simple details about things they just did, like what they ate for lunch.
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It occurs because of damage to the myelin, leaving the brain and other parts of the nervous system vulnerable.
Over time, infections, injury and disease will damage the brain.
As it suffers damage, lesions — or wounds — will start appearing on the brain. Detection of this damage on an MRI scan is usually the first signal to a doctor that someone is suffering MS.
Leg numbness and tingling
Tingling and other sensations in the legs are among the most well-known early symptoms of MS.
As the myelin that surrounds the body’s nerves slowly begins to deteriorate, a person’s nerves become damaged.
These nerves are responsible for relaying information from the brain to the rest of the body.
When damaged, they may fail to send information properly. This leads to a tingling or numbing sensations — which occur when a nerve is irritated or sends extra signals.
While these can occur on occasion for some people, such as after sitting on their leg for a long period of time, doctors warn that someone who often experiences the sensations seek out medical attention.
Frequent migraines are a potential symptom of MS. While more than one-in-ten American suffer from the headaches, WebMD warns that MS sufferers are twice as likely to experience it than their peers.
Doctors have not pinpointed why people who suffer from MS experience these headaches. Previous studies have failed to establish a link between migraines and MS.
But, some speculate the disease impacts how the body regulates hormones.
When the disease ‘flares up’ — what doctors call it when new symptoms of the disease begin to emerge or old ones worsen — migraines are more common too.