When speaking of setting an MS diagnosis, there are no specific tests that can clearly determine the existence of this condition. The diagnosis often relies on thorough research that rules out other conditions with similar symptoms and signs. This is also called a differential diagnosis. Doctors use a variety of tests with the purpose of confirming the multiple sclerosis diagnosis and ruling out other diagnosis. Some of the disorders that may be diagnosed can be cured, while others also require treatment as in the case of multiple sclerosis.
Patients who experience MS symptoms are often recommended to go through a complete check-up. This process usually involves:
- Complete medical history check up
- Physical examination
- Ruling out other diseases
- Detailed neurological examination
- An MRI on the spine and the head
The reason why an MRI is commonly ordered is because it is best to look for the lesions that are characteristic of this disease. The MRI testing is used for the purpose of generating brain and spinal cord images and checking whether there are existing lesions. After this, a contrast agent or a special dye is being injected into a vein. This is when the MRI is actually repeated.
When it comes to regions of MS inflammation, the blood brain barrier can be disrupted and this may cause the dye to leak into the MS lesion.
Aside from these tests, a doctor may also recommend evoked potential tests. These tests use electrodes and electric signals which are painless. These are used on the skin, with the purpose of measuring the speed and accuracy of the stimulation response in the nervous system.
A lumbar puncture can be also requested in order to set proper ms diagnosis. In this procedure, the doctor obtains a cerebrospinal fluid sample, which allows them to look for inflammatory cells that are commonly associated with multiple sclerosis. Additionally, this MS test is used for the purpose of ruling out diseases that may be mistaken with MS, such as certain infections and other illnesses.
In the moment when positive MS disease signs are found in the nervous system and there is no other diagnosis possible for these signs, the doctor will diagnose the patient with multiple sclerosis.
People who are diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS are done so straightforward. This diagnosis can be based on pattern of symptoms that are common with this disease and confirmed by MRI or similar brain scans.
When it comes to people who suffer from unusual symptoms of progressive condition, further testing is needed. This may include spinal fluid analysis, additional imaging and evoked potentials.
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Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
The course of this difficult disease can differ in patients. This is the main reason why doctors find it difficult to predict and diagnose MS.
If you are wondering ‘do I have MS?’, you have to share all your symptoms and medical history with your doctor and make sure they have all information necessary to rule out other conditions.
In the majority of cases, the multiple sclerosis starts with an attack, followed by recovery. This recovery is sometimes full, but in many cases it may be partial or almost-full.
The time for the second attack can vary greatly among individuals. It may be weeks, months or years before the second attack occurs, after which in most cases, another recovery period will follow.
This is what we refer to as relapsing-remitting MS.
Aside from this variant, a doctor may diagnose an MS patient with primary-progressive MS, secondary-progressive MS and a few rare variants of the disease. The first diagnosis is set in cases with gradual physical decline. In this case, there is no noticeable remission, but the occurrence of minor symptom relief is a possible option. The most commonly affected group of people being diagnosed with this MS type is men and women after age 40. There is no real difference between MS developing in men or women.
The secondary-progressive MS is diagnosed in patients that start with relapsing-remitting course but continue with primary-progressive one. Patients who have had relapsing-remitting MS with severe symptoms are very likely to develop this MS type if being improperly treated or not treated at all.
The rare variants of multiple sclerosis include the Marburg variant, which is diagnosed in cases where there is a swift resulting in death or significant disability. This relentless decline occurs shortly after the onset of the disease. The second one is Balo’s concentric sclerosis, which is diagnosed in cases that progress rapidly. In these cases, the concentric demyelination rings can be seen on an MRI.
Setting the right ms diagnosis is highly important, especially because the drugs that are being used are usually beneficial for only one particular type of multiple sclerosis.
Criteria for MS Diagnosis
A physician must follow criteria in order to set a diagnosis.
- Find any evidence of damage in a minimum of two central nervous system areas. These must include the brain, opting nerves and spinal cord
- Find any evidence of the occurring damage that is at least a month apart
- Rule out every other possible diagnosis.
Other Conditions that Cause Demyelination
As we previously stated, there is a grand number of conditions that can be mistaken with multiple sclerosis. In order for a doctor to set a proper diagnosis for multiple sclerosis, they must make sure that they rule out the other possible conditions.
Multiple sclerosis is the most common myelin damaging condition, but there are also many others. These include certain viral infections, severe vitamin B12 deficiency, high exposure to toxins side effects, autoimmune conditions that inflammate the blood vessels and even certain hereditary disorders.
The demyelination of the nervous system can be a result of the Guillain-Barre Syndrome. When people suffer from severe injuries, the myelin sheath regenerates and brings function recovery. This sneath is located in the peripheral nervous system.
Multiple sclerosis is a serious disease and if one is diagnosed with it, serious steps need to be taken in order to treat the patient. Therefore, it is of utmost importance for a doctor to make the right decision regarding both diagnosis and treatment.