Diagnosing MS is usually done by trained medical personnel using many complex tests. These tests are necessary as this ailment is actually diagnosed through a process of elimination, as there is no single easy to use way to identify MS. The first step in this process is a detailed medical history compiled by the doctor which will include all the available information on any symptoms experienced thus far. It is important to remember that the more information the doctor is provided with the easier the diagnosis will go so it is very important to let the doctor know about any symptoms, as well as details when they occur, what helps and what makes it worse.


Diagnosing MS with MRI Scans


There are set criteria that are followed by medial doctors when diagnosing MS symptoms. The reason for these criteria is that in almost all cases the illness will manifest in similar ways, although it must be noted that in some cases some of the criteria may not be met. Firstly, this illness usually manifests in people between 20 and 50 years of age. The signs of this illness are usually related to the spinal cord and the brain, and for this reason an MRI is frequently used to aid in the diagnosis of MS. Episodes of symptoms must last for at least 24 hours in order for the diagnosis criteria to be met, as well as be at least a month apart. The exams and tests are designed to prove that the spinal cord and the brain are fighting off a real disease, and after all other illnesses are eliminated, MS is concluded to be the only remaining one.


McDonald Criteria for Diagnosing MS


A particular set of criteria for diagnosing MS early is called the McDonald Criteria. These particular diagnostic criteria were revised in April 2001 by an international panel in association with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) of America. The reason for the revision was to discourage the use of terms such as “clinically definite” and “probable MS” and create the diagnostic as either “MS”, “possible MS”, and “not MS”.

The earlier criteria replaced by this revision were called Schumacher criteria and Poser criteria. The new criteria makes heavy use of the advanced MRI imaging techniques and makes it easier to accomplish diagnosing MS in women or men who present the symptoms and signs of this particular disease. Some of these criteria are monosymptomatic disease, and a disease with typical relapsing-remitting course or insidious progression but no clear attacks and remissions.

Another revision in 2005 of the McDonald criteria for this diagnosis focused on clarification of terms such as “positive MRI”, “dissemination”, and “attack”.

The key findings of this revision focus on the statement that if 2 or more clinical lesions are present and 2 or more relapses occurred, there is no question about diagnosing MS in a patient. However, if there are less than 2 or that number falls to that, then MRI and a spinal tap must be performed to produce more evidence of MS.