Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS) is fairly straightforward. An MS diagnosis will begin first at your general physician’s office. Your family doctor will complete a full medical history and physical examination including necessary blood tests. If symptoms indicate the possibility of MS, your doctor may then refer you to a neurologist, a specialist trained in diseases of the nervous system).
Physicians use a variety of tools to rule out other possible disorders and perform a series of laboratory tests which, if positive, confirm the diagnosis for multiple sclerosis. However, there is no single test that unequivocally detects MS and other conditions produce MS-like symptoms. Tests used to diagnosed MS include:
Blood tests - Blood tests can help determine if conditions like vitamin deficiencies are causing symptoms that mirror MS symptoms in your body.
MRI - A diagnosis of MS relies primarily on viewing patches of destroyed myelin on an MRI scan. Neurologists use an MRI scan of the brain and/or spinal cord to look for the characteristic patches of MS. MRIs can also help confirm or exclude the possibility that a patient is experiencing a brain tumor or disc herniation of the neck or lower back instead of MS.
Nerve tests - Exams testing the neuro-physiological potentials of the optic, acoustic and sensitive brain nervous paths are useful when diagnosing multiple sclerosis.
Spinal tap - If a diagnosis is still questionable, spinal fluid may be taken via a lumbar puncture, or “spinal tap”, to investigate a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for proteins associated with the disease.
Getting multiple sclerosis symptoms under control early can help reduce chances of developing complications later. To learn more about MS treatments, continue reading here.