Understanding how MS is diagnosed

Understanding how multiple sclerosis (MS) is diagnosed

"Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex neurologic disorder that affects the central nervous system, causing a range of symptoms that vary from person to person," says Diana N. Andino, MD, Neurology at ARC Four Points in Austin. "Early detection and diagnosis are crucial for managing the condition effectively."

Key steps in diagnosing MS

  • Investigating your medical history: An accurate MS diagnosis often begins with a thorough investigation of your medical history. Your doctor, typically a neurologist, will inquire about any neurological symptoms you may have experienced. Since MS is known for its diverse array of symptoms, such as fatigue, numbness, and difficulties with coordination, providing a comprehensive history can aid in narrowing down potential diagnoses.
  • Keeping track of your symptoms: Keeping a detailed record of your symptoms is vital in aiding the diagnostic process. By documenting the onset, duration, and intensity of symptoms, you can assist your healthcare team in identifying patterns that may point toward MS. It is important to communicate honestly with your doctor, detailing any changes or fluctuations in your condition.

Common tests used to diagnose MS

  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging): An MRI of the brain and spinal cord is a standard diagnostic tool for MS. This imaging technique provides detailed images that allow healthcare professionals to identify lesions or areas of inflammation characteristic of the disease.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): A lumbar puncture involves collecting cerebrospinal fluid through a needle inserted into the spinal canal. The analysis of this fluid can reveal abnormalities consistent with MS, such as an elevated level of certain proteins.
  • Blood tests: While there is no specific blood test for diagnosing MS, certain blood tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. These tests can help differentiate MS from disorders like disease or vitamin deficiencies.
  • Antibody tests: Used to rule out MS mimickers and other autoimmune disorders to ensure accurate diagnosis. MS mimickers are conditions that share similar clinical features with MS but have different underlying causes. Two examples of such mimickers are Neuromyelitis Optica (NMO) and MOG (Myelin Oligodendrocyte Glycoprotein) related diseases. Testing for antibodies against MOG and NMO can help differentiate these conditions from MS.
  • Evoked potentials tests: These tests measure the electrical activity of the brain in response to stimuli. Abnormal results can suggest damage to the nerves and further support an MS diagnosis.

"Patients can make a big difference by getting involved in the diagnosis," says Dr. Andino. "Work closely with your doctor, participate in sharing your medical history, keep an eye on your symptoms, and get the recommended tests; all can lead to a quick and accurate diagnosis. This sets the stage for better management and a higher quality of life."

About Dr. Andino

Dr. Andino was recently recognized by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a Partner in MS Care for her dedication to providing optimal care and support to people living with MS. She is currently accepting new patients, ages 18 and older, at ARC Four Points in Austin. Learn more about ARC Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Treatment with Dr. Andino.

Make an appointment today with or without a referral

Make an appointment online with Dr. Andino using ARC MyChart or by calling ARC Four Points in Austin at 737-247-7200. Your ARC primary care physician can also give you a referral to Dr. Andino.

Don't miss this!

Dr. Andino is leading the ARC team for the Austin Walk MS 2024 on Saturday, April 13. Join or donate today!

Tags: Multiple Sclerosis, MS