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How is Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosed

For the majority of people, getting that final diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is both a relief and a nightmare.

The diagnosis comes as a relief because, oftentimes, the person has experienced odd, seemingly disconnected symptoms for several years before it finally has a name. Many are confused and scared by the strange numbness, weakness or other neurological symptoms, which seem to come and go at random. For many final diagnosis is reassurance for themselves they are not losing their minds and proof to their family they are not faking illness.

There is no definitive test for MS. A diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis is made only after eliminating all other possibilities and explanations for the patient’s symptoms.

There is, however a uniform criteria which must be met for a diagnosis of “definite MS.” Even if the MRI, lumbar puncture and V.E.P all suggest MS, this criteria must be met before the final diagnosis can be made.

That requirement is as follows, ‘Two different areas of the central nervous system are affected, and that these effects have been experienced on at least two separate occasions of at least one month apart and that the person is within the normal age range for the onset of MS’

At the first visit with your neurologist, he/she will take a complete medical history and will ask you to describe, in detail, the physical problems. It is important to tell everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Symptoms the patient has gotten used to ignoring, such as fleeting pain and restless legs are important.

The neurologist will then do a full neuro exam. He/she will test reflexes, check eyes, balance and coordination, as well as check for muscle weakness in the extremities and changes in the eyes.

After that is completed, most neurologists will order an MRI of the brain and spine, and a visual evoked potential. Some doctors will order a lumbar puncture at this time, but others will wait for the MRI to come back.

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