LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Actress Annette Funicello has disclosed she has multiple sclerosis and kept it a secret for five years.

''Just being able to talk about it now is a big help,'' she said in Thursday's USA Today.

The former Mouseketeer and beach movie veteran received an outpouring of support following the disclosure in the newspaper, said a Walt Disney studio spokesman who asked that his name not be used.

Miss Funicello, 49, said she was diagnosed when her eyesight rapidly deteriorated five years ago but kept the degenerative disease a secret because she felt good.

She said she kept the disease from her father for two years ''because he just loves and adores me so much that if I have a cold he goes to pieces.''

Now, Miss Funicello walks with a cane and her balance has begun to fail. She was concerned about people spotting her in restaurants and thinking, ''Annette's drunk'' and wanted to defuse tabloid attention, USA Today said.

''But I'm going to lick this,'' Miss Funicello said.

She said she has tried steroids, acupuncture and vitamin shots.

''From the waist up, you'd never know anything is wrong,'' the actress said.

The Walt Disney spokesman said Miss Funicello is declining additional interviews.