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Diagnosis of MS

At this time, no single test is available to identify or rule out MS. Several tests and procedures are needed. These are likely to include:

Complete Medical History

Healthcare providers need an overall view of the individual's health picture, including symptoms and when they began.

Nervous System Functioning

Testing of reflexes, balance, coordination, and vision— as well as checking for areas of numbness

Diagnostic Tests

  • MRI scan, which gives detailed view of the brain
  • Evoked potential tests, which measure how quickly and accurately a person's nervous system responds to certain stimulation
  • Spinal tap, which checks spinal fluid for signs of the disease

Two Basic Signs are Required to Confirm MS

  1. Signs of disease in different parts of the nervous system.
  2. Signs of at least two separate flare-ups (also called relapses or exacerbations) of the disease

For more information

  • Diagnosis For more detailed information.

  • Diagnosis: The Basic Facts Explains usual steps and tests. Includes how to prepare for an MRI.

  • Clinically Isolated Syndrome (CIS) Individuals who experience a clinically isolated syndrome may or may not go on to develop multiple sclerosis.

  • Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) Examination of this fluid in the central nervous system can provide clues to the diagnosis of MS and other diseases.

  • Evoked Potentials These tests of electrical activity are helpful in the diagnosis of MS because they detect a slowing in nerve impulses caused by demyelination.

  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) An important diagnostic tool that makes it possible to visualize and count white matter lesions (damaged areas or scars) in the brain and spinal cord.

  • Medical Histories A person’s medical history is critical to the diagnosis of MS and to subsequent treatment decisions.

Did you know?

Other conditions and problems may share some of the same symptoms of MS.

  • Diagnosis of Other Demyelinating Diseases
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS—also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease)
  • Depression
  • Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS)
  • Lyme Disease
  • Muscular Dystrophy

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