Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. An exam will also be done. It can be hard to find out if you have multiple sclerosis (MS). The health problems from it are like ones found with other illnesses. There is no test for MS. But the results of some tests can lead to finding out whether you have MS or not.
You may have:
  • MRI scan—This test uses magnetic waves to check for harm to the nerves in the brain and spine. It can also look for a decrease in gray matter. A contrast material may be used to help doctors see places of active swelling. This test can track changes in the disease.
  • Evoked responses—This test records the speed of the electrical responses in certain nerves after a repeated stimulus. This test can help find areas impacted by MS. Visual evoked potential tests are most often used in checking for MS.
  • Lumbar puncture—A small amount of fluid from around the spine is removed and checked for white blood cells, antibodies, and proteins. Doctors look for changes that are common with MS.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)- A test to look how MS affects the nerves in the eyes. It also looks at reactions from some MS treatments.
Other tests may be done to rule out other health problems that look like MS.

References

Frohman EM, Goodin DS, et al. The utility of MRI in suspected MS: report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2003 Sep 9;61(5):602-611.
Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS . Updated July 23, 2018. Accessed September 26, 2018.
NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-Sclerosis-Information-Page. Accessed September 27, 2018.
What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS. Accessed September 26, 2018.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2018