Healthy Living

Clinically Isolated Syndrome vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What You Need To Know

Clinically Isolated Syndrome vs. Multiple Sclerosis: What You Need To Know

Clinically isolated syndrome presents the same type of attack where the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system. If this only happens once, it's known as CIS.

Clinically Isolated Syndrome

Despite popular belief, CIS does not always go on to develop multiple sclerosis. This does happen frequently but it is possible that a person could have only one episode of an attack.


Symptoms of CIS can happen all of your body or be localized to one area. These symptoms can include the following:

In order to be considered a CIS episode, the symptoms must last for at least 24 hours. Many other conditions have similar symptoms. So in order to properly diagnose a patient with CIS, other factors like Lyme disease and stroke need to be ruled out. In order to make this diagnosis, a physician may do several tests such as a spinal tap, to test your spinal fluid. Doctors may also want to get images of your brain through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to check for damage to the central nervous system.

Women are at a significantly higher risk than men to develop either CIS, as well as people between the ages of 20 years old and 40 years old. Patients suspected of having a CIS episode are usually closely monitored for a period of several months to monitor any potential sign of the person developing MS. For patients who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, at one time they were also diagnosed with CIS, as this refers to the very first onset of symptoms.  Doctors may look into some preventative measures for their patients with an active CIS diagnosis, by prescribing them a medication intended to affect the immune system or a steroid medication to help combat unwanted symptoms of CIS.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is also the result of nerves being damaged due to the immune system attacking the central nervous system. However with MS, the event is not isolated to one episode; it is progressive. There is a known cure for MS and doctors do their best to treat the symptoms and keep the patient as stable as possible. 



Multiple Sclerosis shares many of the symptoms similar to CIS such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Difficulty walking or meeting their usual gait abilities
  • Slurred speech
  • Problems with vision
  • Poor memory
  • Vertigo

Since multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease, it gets worse over time. Physicians often spend much time observing the patient for both improvement and increased disabilities. The average patient diagnosed with MS went through approximately seven years from the first onset know as CIS until their diagnosis with MS. This disease does not have the same effect on every patient and each patient has their own unique experience in dealing with MS. Early on in MS the person may remain without progress for a few decades.


A patient with MS will have a slightly different treatment plan than someone with CIS. MS patients tend to experience more intense and frequent symptoms than someone suffering from CIS. Patients with a multiple sclerosis diagnosis are evaluated often by their doctors and they are classified into an active or inactive category and determine if the condition is with or without progression. This helps the doctors know how they should proceed with a treatment plan or if the patient can be considered in a state or remission.