5 Tools Used to Diagnose Multiple Sclerosis

Patricia Silva, PhD avatar

by Patricia Silva, PhD |

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It’s never a good idea to jump to conclusions when trying to find a cause for any symptoms you might have. With multiple sclerosis (MS), self-diagnosing is not the way to go. This disease may cause permanent damage even in its earliest stages so it’s crucial to get it properly diagnosed as soon as possible.

According to the National MS Society, these are the tools used to diagnose MS:

1. Medical history and neurological exam
A doctor is critical for this method. He or she will keep track of the patient’s medical and family history and keep an eye out for past or future signs or symptoms that might be connected to MS. A doctor will also perform a series of psychological and physical examinations to test the patient’s senses and cognitive abilities.

MORELearn more about the early signs of MS

2. MRI
This is currently the least invasive method available to map a patient’s central nervous system and detect any problems. As MS is centered on that system, this scan can both help diagnose the patient as well as keep track of changes throughout their life. It’s important to note that when patients (up to 5 percent of cases) are first diagnosed through other methods, they might not show signs of damage on an MRI. However, if later on in the development of the disease they still do not show any signs on an MRI, they might need to question their MS diagnosis.

MORERead more about magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and MS diagnosis

3. OCT
OCT or optical coherence tomography is a rather new and non-invasive method. It consists of an imaging tool that maps the structure of the retinas. The optic nerves are usually affected by MS but before this tool was invented, they couldn’t really be analyzed. Now with OCT, studies have shown that the retinal nerves of people with MS and without it are different.

 4. EP
Evoked potentials (EP) works by stimulating nerve pathways and measuring what it does to your brain activity. Although there’s a stimulation of those pathways, this is done through light, sensation or sound, so it’s harmless and mostly painless. Like MRIs, this test can help detect demyelinating, which is crucial to officially diagnosing MS.

MOREMore about the evoked potential (EP) test and multiple sclerosis diagnosis

5. CSF
There is a liquid in the human body that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain called cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). This liquid is filled with nutrients and chemicals that differ in people with and without MS. Spinal taps are required to test the liquid, and obviously must be done by a doctor. By examining this fluid, doctors can detect various nervous system diseases, including MS.

MOREWhat to know about a spinal tap test and multiple sclerosis diagnosis

Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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