Cerebral Palsy (CP) vs. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

While both multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy affect the central nervous system and have some symptoms that are similar, the causes are quite different. In fact, there is no known cause for multiple sclerosis while cerebral palsy is believed to be related to something that went wrong either during pregnancy, labor, or shortly after birth.


Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis

Demyelination by MS

Multiple sclerosis affects the central nervous system, and as a result over time it can affect the patient’s vision, speech, minor motor skills, and memory. The condition causes the myelin sheath of the nerves to wear away, thus causing a slowing of the nerve signals and eventual damage to the nerves themselves. The disease is classified as a chronic autoimmune one and affects women more than men. Diagnosis is most common between the ages of 20 and 50.

Causes and Symptoms

At the present time we do not know the cause of MS, but there is some indication that it may be genetic in nature. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease and as such, the body is unable to distinguish between normal tissue and foreign tissue. As a result, it attacks the tissue in the body—specifically the brain and spinal cord.

The symptoms that an individual patient suffers depend on which nerves are involved, but the most common symptoms include:

  • Limbs that are weak or numb.
  • Reduction in visual capabilities.
  • Vision problems such as blurred or double vision.
  • Tingling.
  • Tremors.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dizziness.
  • Depression.
  • Problems with concentration.

The fact that symptoms vary and have the tendency to come and go makes it difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis. Sometimes the process can take months or years from the onset of the first symptoms. There is no specific test that will diagnose the disease; the doctor must simply rule out other conditions and then it becomes a process of elimination.


Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy

Child With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy (CP) affects a person’s body movement as well as muscle control and coordination throughout his or her entire life. There are different levels of severity, and the symptoms may not be noticeable until months or years down the line. If a child has difficulty walking, sitting, or crawling, there is a possibility he or she may have cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy affects the central nervous system. However, CP has several causes that often occur because of problems with the pregnancy or birth rather than having a genetic cause; in other words, it is related to a birth injury rather than being a birth defect. The risk factors that are often associated with cerebral palsy include:

Unlike multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy does not become progressively worse over time, although it may lend way to secondary conditions such as tight muscles. Although the two conditions have similar symptoms, they are completely different in their causes, treatments, and future outlook.

17 Comments

  1. In 2008, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. Today a different neurologist diagnosed me with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy. I am so confused. Does anyone else suffer from this condition? I am 47 years old. I thought that CP was diagnosed in infants or young children.

    • I’m the complete opposite they told me since I was 5 I had spasmadic displaga an now telling me jt might b ms

      • Not a chance, Jessica! If you were affected @ age 5, you probably had undiagnosed cerebral palsy because MS doesn’t occur in somebody that young!

      • My son was diagnosed with spastic dysplagia (CP) at age 2 and now at age 28 a doctor has also told him he was misdiagnosed. The doctor has not said yet confirmed it is MS but he performed a brain MRI and found dymyelination of the cervical spine and a few other neurological disorders. I researched dymyelination and it is primarily caused by MS. What are your symptoms? My son’s condition seemed to be getting worse and CP is not suppose to progress that is why we did further testing. He is basically wheelchair bound except for using crutches sometimes around the house. What is your prognosis? Any info would be appreciated. Thank you.

        • I’m 58 yrs. old & suffer from both diseases, I was born with C P & then at age 40, I was dianogized with M S they did a spinal tap & showed it! I can relate to you all! I dial it everyday of my life!, Do the best you can & don’t give up!!

        • Sorry but have you misinterpreted what they said about your son. Did they say he has spastic diplegia which is cerebral palsy but the legs are most affected! Under cerebral palsy there are many different subtypes depending on which part of the body is affected.
          It’s only when the brain develops and the baby/child isn’t reaching certain milestones it is then picked up on.
          Obviously if a child has got to 2 years of age and was able to sit up, crawl and then was walking but then noticed the walking was on tip toes and other and tightness increased muscle tone that is when the cerebral palsy will become more apparent.
          However in a more severely affected baby with cerebral palsy I.e. having feeding difficulties unable to suck and difficulty swallowing, unable to lift head, roll over, sit up is more obvious and obviously the brain is more damaged.
          Obviously depends on the severity of the damage. The brain damage does not get worse it’s just at the time when a baby would normally be doing things reaching milestones is then picked up on!
          When they say a demyelinating disease you may have misinterpreted this which is very easily done if the consultant hasn’t explained it properly.
          Was your baby born premature? Possibly suffering lack of oxygen/blood flow during labour? Was there some kind of emergency as in the baby’s heart rate dropping on the ctg?
          If the baby became distressed and an emergency Caesarian section was possibly delayed the baby can suffer from lack of oxygen and blood flow or whilst in Neonatal unit could also suffer from some kind of problem causing lack of oxygen or blood flow resulting in causing periventricular leukomalacia which basically causes cerebral palsy! which is a type of brain damage in a preterm baby caused by lack of oxygen and blood flow.
          The fact the preterm baby suffered the hypoxic ischaemic insult (lack of oxygen and blood flow) to the brain being preterm when the insult to the brain occurred causes a cessation of the next stage of developing brain affecting myelination! It basically interrupts/disrupts the myelination process!
          Possibly you may have misinterpreted the delayed myelination (from the hypoxic ischaemic insult to the preterm baby brain) with a demyelinating condition in MS! Which if you don’t know (which most people who aren’t medically qualified would!).
          Physiotherapy for your child and stretching exercises is the best way forward to prevent fixed contractures!
          Good luck and I wish you and your child the very best!

      • Hi jessica we ran across your story,.believe it or not my girlfriend has the exact same issue she is 45 and was told all her life she had cp and just two weeks ago found out it might be m.s. she is besides herself as I asume you were are you having any luck with mal practice ? We are being told it happened too many years ago and there is nothing that can be done.

  2. Okay Karen and Jessica, my name is Karen I’m 47 years old was told that I had CP since I was the age of 2 now a doctor is suggesting that I may have CP as well as MS I have searched the internet and not found anybody else with this type of dual diagnosis has anyone followed up on your post I’d really like to know thanks so much

  3. I have been told all my life that I have CP. However, my symptoms are getting worse. My muscle are weaker, I have a lot more pain and my function is getting worse. They are now telling me I might have MS. They are also telling me that I need a spinal biopsy to tell me I have if I have MS but because I have damage in the base of my brain the spinal biopsy can be very dangerous for me.

  4. At 51, same thing as Karen. Mild Cerebral Palsy – but I was never diagnosed as a kid. I am mainly wondering what makes him think it’s CP and not MS when my symptoms can clearly be either. No lesions on MRI – maybe that’s it? Or, nothing on Evoked Potential rest? Or the hyperreflexia in knees and stiffness in wrists and walk/gait? Those are the main things he mentioned to me for CP but am wondering if those could just as well been for MS?

  5. Excuse me, But CP DOES get worse over time! My son was diagnosed with CP when he was 1, and his condition has worsened over time. He is a now 32 and cannot do alot of just simple thing that he possibly could have done just trying to COPE with CP. His muscles have gotten weaker, His bowels enables him to go to the bathroom comfortably, over time his CP has caused him to have a hiatal hernia, weakness in his bladder, CP has caused his sex drive, so to speak, almost non functional, and an onslaught of other medical difficulties. I watch him suffer every day by what all that CP has done to his body, let alone his life.

  6. Definitely not Cp I’ve had it since 2 .if you have cp it would have happen at birth up to 2yrs of age.

  7. I have always been told I have CP……and today I was told I have MS…….Im 48 years old and I’m confused……can a person have both

  8. Thank you! I am in nursing school and after learning about muscular dystrophy and cerebal palsy, I thought: they both sound alike and sound similar to MS! I’m glad I found your website with a quick to the point explanation on the differences.

    • Hi, I’m 47 years old and was diagnosed at birth ( 2 months premature, 2nd of twins) with Spastic CP. I walked with a limp due to one leg being shorter then the other, had some difficulty with learning but my biggest issue has been tight tight muscles and such. At age 28 they diagnosed RRMS but nothing has changed on my MRI’s in 20 years. Now a stronger MRI more enhanced) has shown I also have colpocephaly ( mild) my new neurologist questions wether I even have MS or if all of these go hand-and-hand? Any help or information would be greatly appreciated

  9. After 20 years of MS treated from 2000 to 2006 with Rebif(efficient to that year) and then Avonex(not efficient to calm down my lesions’ number increase) i found this website just 3 months ago, It made a tremendous difference for me I had improved walking balance, muscle strength and improved vision, always thankful for nature that helps in managing these terrible diseases.

  10. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2015, and I was a woman of 50. They put me on Rebif which I took until 2017 and was switched to Copaxone. I had two relapses on Rebif, none so far on Copaxone. I do notice my balance was getting worse, and my memory, as well as erectile dysfunction and spasms’ had no choice to sick for other solution and I was introduce to multivitamincare .org which I purchase the MS herbal formula from the foundation, the herbal supplement has effectively get rid of my multiple sclerosis and reversed all symptoms. 

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