The MS Society said about two-fifths (39 per cent) are left waiting a year or more before they are diagnosed. While 81 per cent of patients were initially misdiagnosed, 28 per cent were told they had a trapped nerve. Meanwhile, 14 per cent were told their symptoms pointed to depression, anxiety or stress and around one in 10 (11 per cent) were informed they had suffered a stroke.

One in four visited their GP more than four times before they were referred to a neurologist for further tests and investigations. Four in five multiple sclerosis patients are misdiagnosed, with one in four told they are simply suffering a trapped nerve, a leading charity has today warned

The charity warned that while MS can be difficult to diagnose, delays can be harmful, preventing people from taking the necessary steps to manage their condition effectively. Evidence has shown that early treatment has long-term benefits. There are more than 100,000 people living with the condition in the UK and 5,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

There is no cure for MS, which affects nerves in the brain and spinal cord, causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision. It is the most common disabling neurological condition in young adults, with symptoms usually starting in the 20s and 30s, yet awareness remains low.

Its causes are complex and not completely understood, but typical early symptoms include numbness, tingling, limb weakness, lack of co-ordination, loss of sight, fatigue and bladder and bowel problems.

Of the 1,515 people questioned for the survey to mark World MS Day, the most common early symptoms were reported as being numbness and altered sensations in different parts of the body (53 per cent), sight problems (47 per cent) and difficulty with walking (41 per cent).

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