Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

With today's medicine, there is no definitive test available
to diagnose multiple sclerosis. However, a probable
diagnosis can be made by following a careful process
which demonstrates findings that are consistent with MS,
that also rule out other causes and diseases.

What are the criteria used when diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis?

  1. There must have been two attacks at least one month apart. An attack is a sudden appearance of or worsening of any MS symptom or symptoms that lasts at least 24 hours.

  2. There must be more than one area of damage to the central nervous system myelin, the sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibers, which must have occurred at more than one point in time and was not caused by any other disease.

What does an evaluation for multiple sclerosis cover?

Evaluation for MS involves a complete medical history and neurological exam, which includes:

  • mental functions
  • emotional functions
  • language functions
  • movement and coordination
  • vision
  • balance
  • functions of the five senses

Evaluation procedures for MS:

The following may be used when evaluating for multiple sclerosis:

  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body; to detect the presence of plaques or scarring caused by MS.
  • evoked potentials - procedures that record the brain's electrical response to visual, auditory, and sensory stimuli; to show if there is a slowing of messages in the various parts of the brain.
  • cerebral spinal fluid analysis (Also called spinal tap or lumbar puncture.) - a procedure used to make an evaluation or diagnosis by examining the fluid withdrawn from the spinal column; to check for cellular and chemical abnormalities associated with MS.
  • blood tests (to rule out other causes for various neurological symptoms)