Baló concentric sclerosis (BCS) is a rare neurological condition that some consider to be a form of multiple sclerosis (MS). On diagnostic brain imaging, BCS looks like concentric rings.

BCS is a rare condition that affects your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). Many experts previously considered it a form of MS, a neurological autoimmune condition that affects your brain and spinal cord. But scientists now think it may be a different condition, though similar to MS.

In this article, we’ll explore BCS, including its symptoms, causes and risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and outlook.

Symptoms of BCS can be similar to MS symptoms. They may include:

These symptoms can sometimes occur suddenly, unlike a more typical gradual MS course.

The exact cause of BCS remains unclear. But, like MS, it involves an atypical immune system response.

In MS, your immune system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of your nerve fibers, called myelin (demyelination). In people with BCS, this immune response leads to the formation of concentric rings (similar to a bull’s eye) of demyelination within the brain.

Researchers still don’t completely understand the reasons behind this specific pattern of myelin damage. Some believe that it can be linked to certain viral infections.

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Baló concentric sclerosis appears on a brain MRI as concentric rings, resembling a bull’s-eye. These represent alternating rings of myelination and demyelination.
Copyright ©2011 Gavra et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. CC BY 2.0

BCS is a very rare condition, and we still don’t know what puts you at risk of getting it. We do know, however, that most people who develop it are of Han Chinese or Filipino descent.

It appears to affect males and females equally. It also tends to occur later in life than MS, according to a 2021 study.

Diagnosing BCS requires a thorough evaluation by a neurologist, a doctor specializing in nervous system conditions. The process typically includes:

  • Clinical assessment: A doctor will carry out a detailed examination of your medical history and symptoms.
  • Neurological exam: A doctor will assess your muscle strength, coordination, reflexes, and sensory functions, like vision and hearing.
  • Blood tests: A doctor will use blood tests to check for infections.
  • Imaging studies: A doctor will likely order an MRI scan to look for a specific pattern of demyelination typical for BCS.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis: A doctor may also do a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to analyze CSF for signs of inflammation.
  • Visual evoked potential tests: A doctor may order these tests to measure the activity in your brain.
  • Brain biopsy: A doctor will use a needle to take a sample of brain tissue to look for evidence of BCS or to rule out other conditions.

There’s currently no cure for BCS, and doctors don’t yet have medications that specifically target this condition. They’ll work on relieving your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

Medications that doctors prescribe for BCS may include:

You may also need to take other medications, depending on your symptoms. These might include pain relievers and drugs that help with muscle spasms.

Researchers and doctors don’t yet have enough information to estimate the general long-term outlook for people who have BCS. Some people with BCS can live up to 14 years, but others have much shorter life spans.

The short-term outlook varies among people and may depend on several factors. Although BCS is generally a progressive condition with a poor outlook, some people have a quick improvement in their symptoms with appropriate treatment. Early diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential for a better outlook.

As with most chronic conditions, it’s important to maintain a holistic mindset when living with BCS. Although it can be challenging for many people dealing with long-term health issues, focusing on your physical and emotional health can improve your overall well-being.

In addition to medical treatment, try to get regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, and use stress reduction techniques.

BCS is a rare neurological condition similar to MS. Understanding its symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options is essential for people and their loved ones facing this condition. While there’s currently no cure, prompt diagnosis and treatment, as well as physical and emotional support, can significantly improve your quality of life.

If you suspect that you or a loved one may have symptoms of a neurological condition, it’s crucial to seek prompt medical attention. Consult with healthcare professionals, share your concerns, and work collaboratively to develop a personalized care plan tailored to your specific needs.

Remember, you’re not alone on this journey, and support is available to help you navigate the complexities of BCS.