How is Multiple Sclerosis diagnosed?
MS can be hard to diagnose. Symptoms come and go. They also may be like those of other health problems. A diagnosis of MS is not made unless a person has had at least two or more separate episodes of MS symptoms. To confirm a diagnosis of MS, your healthcare provider will take a detailed history of symptoms. Your healthcare provider will also perform a neurologic exam to check your muscle strength, balance, coordination, and reflexes. Skills such as thinking, memory, vision, hearing, and talking are also checked. In addition, healthcare providers may also give you the following tests:
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. This test provides detailed pictures of the brain and spinal cord. It helps check for areas of damaged nerves. These are often referred to as lesions or plaques.
Evoked potentials. These tests check how fast and well your body’s nerves respond to specific types of sensory stimulation, such as flashing lights, loud sounds, or little electric shocks.
Spinal tap (also called lumbar puncture). This test checks the health of the fluid around your brain and spinal cord for signs of nerve sheath damage (demyelination).
Blood tests. These help rule out other causes of the symptoms.
How is MS treated?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS. The goal of treatment is to manage your symptoms and to slow the rate at which the disease worsens. You can manage your symptoms in one or more of the following ways:
Medicines. Some medicines help keep your body’s immune system from attacking the myelin. This may reduce the frequency and severity of attacks. Other medicines help control symptoms or relieve pain when attacks happen.
Rehabilitation (rehab). Symptoms or problems due to MS can interfere with daily living. Rehab, which includes physical, occupational, or speech therapy, can help you maintain strength and function. If needed, your healthcare provider will prescribe aids such as canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. You can also make changes in your work or living space to improve your safety.
Supportive services. These include counseling and support groups to help you cope with the challenges of living with MS. Family members and friends may also benefit from these services.
Lifestyle changes. Making certain changes in your lifestyle and daily routine may help you manage symptoms. This includes getting enough rest and regular exercise. It also includes eating healthy foods and reducing stress. Identifying and avoiding triggers of MS episodes can also help.
Other treatments. Researchers are exploring new treatments for MS. Many of these are in clinical trials. This means they are being tested for safety and effectiveness. Your healthcare providers can give you more information about any treatments that might be an option for you.