Multiple sclerosis diagnosis

Getting an early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is very important, since treatment can slow down the progression of the disease. There is not just one single test that can be performed to determine if you have multiple sclerosis. There is however certain criteria that doctors use to make the diagnosis. This criterion is not one hundred percent accurate though since there are about ten percent of patients that have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis that actually have some other medical condition. Conditions like inflamed blood vessels, having multiple strokes, lupus or possibly a brain infection can mimic the symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

The criteria the doctor follows in diagnosing multiple sclerosis are the symptoms and signs pointing to disease of the spinal cord or brain. Your age, because the onset of multiple sclerosis usually falls between twenty and fifty years of age is a factor along with evidence of two or more lesions found during a MRI scan, having a episode that last twenty – four hours and at least one month apart and evidence of disease of the spinal cord or brain found during the examination by your doctor can all point to having the disease. You should see a neurologist that specializes in multiple sclerosis for a diagnosis, as this disease is difficult to diagnose.

To get an actual diagnosis the neurologist will go over your medical history with you, as well as ask specific questions about your symptoms. They also will perform neurological testing. These tests are used to determine the function of your brain and spinal cord. In addition to this thorough exam there are other tests that can be performed that can aid your doctor in determining a diagnosis. Some of these tests may or may not be necessary in determining a diagnosis. A test that the doctor might order is an MRI. The MRI is a test that will show the neurologist if there is scar tissue deep inside the brain or in the spinal column. This test may not be one-hundred percent accurate in determining if you have multiple sclerosis because there are other conditions such as high blood pressure or having migraine headaches that can cause this as well. The doctor will have to review these test results along with his neurological exam findings to determine if you have multiple sclerosis. Another test the doctor might order is a lumbar puncture or spinal tap to examine the cerebrospinal fluid in the spinal column. This is done to look for abnormalities in the spinal fluid. The doctor is looking for oligoclonal bands, which are an increased number of certain antibodies. This is a sign of increased immunity activity in the spinal fluid. About ninety percent of people with multiple sclerosis will have this. A full lab work up may also be ordered by your doctor. Since there is no blood test that will diagnose multiple sclerosis, the doctor uses this test to rule out other medical conditions that have similar symptoms. Another test that might be performed is an electrical test to determine if the nerve pathways have been affected. It may take one or all of these tests to get an accurate diagnosis. Your neurologist will have to decide what is necessary.

How multiple sclerosis affects a person will vary and sometimes it can take years depending on the symptoms and the progression of the disease to actually get diagnosed. The progression of the disease also varies from one person to the next since there are more than fifty symptoms linked to Multiple Sclerosis. Not all will progress the same or have the exact same symptoms. Doctors are not able to predict how the disease will progress.

Last updated on Nov 22nd, 2009 and filed under Neurological Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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