Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis:

Today Neurologists have the skills and tools necessary to correctly detect MS in nearly all cases of the disease but some remain elusive. The Neurologist performs a neurological examination to assist in evaluating movement and coordination functions, vision impairments, balance, speech functions and other symptom criteria such as the mental and emotional state. While MS cannot strictly be diagnosed through these tests they can be pointers to the disease’s manifestation.

Traditional MRI Unit
Traditional MRI Unit

Blood tests are often taken. A blood test cannot diagnose MS but instead can be utilized to help rule out other medical conditions that have symptoms that mimic those of MS such as AIDS, Lyme disease in addition to several others.

The family medical history is also discussed.  MS is not considered hereditary however some research has shown genetic links may well exist.  The family medical history discussion can help rule out other conditions that again seem mimic multiple sclerosis symptoms.

Evoked Potentials Tests often take place next.  These are electrical conductivity tests that assist in determining a person’s nerve pathways are properly functioning.  Signals are sent through the nervous system, visual, auditory (sound) and lastly hands and or feet.  The time is measured for responses to be read which can then be used to gauge whether there is damage to the Central Nervous System.

A Spinal Tap also is known as Lumbar Puncture may be performed.  Cerebrospinal fluid is collected and tested for proteins that are signatures of multiple sclerosis exacerbations.  As the Myelin Sheath is damaged the remnants of the damage may appear in the cerebrospinal fluid which surrounds the brain and spinal cord.

An imaging technique called a Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan (MRI), will then be performed.  The MRI allows for plaques often called lesions to be detected by performing a series of scans that allow for viewing cross sections of the brain and spinal cord.

It is also important to understand that not all Plaques or symptoms may be related to MS.  As we age generally into the 40’s and 50’s lesions may well begin to appear that have no connection at all to Multiple Sclerosis but are simply a part of the aging process.  As we grow older we may well simply due to the aging process have memory issues, cognition problems, visual sight impacts, walking or muscular degradation and more.

Criteria for a Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis:

  • Common and uncommon symptoms that point to possible nerve malfunction in the brain and/or spinal cord.
  • An MRI scan showing at least two plaques (lesions) in the brain.
  • Objective evidence of the disease in the brain or spinal cord upon medical exam
  • One episode of MS symptoms and resulting changes on an MRI image
  • Evidence from lumbar puncture
  • Lack of evidence of other diseases that may mimic MS symptoms

Depending on the region one lives in on the planet diagnostic criteria may vary.