A thorough physical examination of the patient and knowledge of his or her medical history is a must in an accurate multiple sclerosis diagnosis. The patient should report to a physician on the slightest onset of any of the commonly held signs of the disease, as early treatment is necessary to curb the intensity and progression of the symptoms. For detection of multiple sclerosis, a set of criteria has been formulated (known as the McDonald Criteria) which, when confirmed, helps to initiate treatments for the disease, while further confirmatory tests can be performed to zero in on a definite case of multiple sclerosis.
The most important tools for confirming MS include:
1. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), which helps to detect the lesions caused as a result of demyelination.
2. Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) cultures from lumbar punctures and CSF testing for oligoclonal banding (bands of immunoglobulins and other inflammation-related proteins).
3. Virtually Evoked Potentials (VEP) which detects the strength of the nervous system and checks the speed of impulses based on stimulation of specific nervous pathways. The slower the speed, the greater the degree of damage.
4. Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) which checks for damages to the optic nerve and also checks for nature of the retinal nerve, after an episode of optic neuritis (ON: inflammation of the optic nerve which causes blurry vision and sometimes partial or total blindness). Because the nature of the retinal nerve is different in patients with and without ON, despite not having a myelin sheath, it can be easily detected.
5. Blood cultures can be performed to rule out other infectious diseases and assess levels of vitamins in plasma.