In order to achieve certainty when diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis, it is important that the doctor does not rely solely on reported symptoms. In fact, doctors do perform various tests and then compile a detailed medical history, which includes information on any possible past trauma or injuries as well as medications taken now and in the past, and any relevant family medical history as well. Although it is not proven that MS is genetic in nature, doctors will ask because some do believe a link exists.
As symptoms what manifest for this disease can be shared with other illnesses, the doctor will also perform blood tests to exclude pathogens such as HIV or Lyme disease. Along with this, the lumbar puncture performed will take samples of the cerebrospinal fluid and check them for the number of antibodies. A high number of these antibodies is a sign of an active immune system. MS is one of the few autoimmune diseases extant, and therefore, abnormally high levels of antibodies present as a symptom.
Doctors also use MRI scans in order to determine whether there are any lesions on the spinal cord, the brain, and possibly optic nerves. The MRI scan will pinpoint any old dormant lesions as well as active ones. In order to see these clearly the doctors will inject gadolinium, which is a special kind of die that will make these lesions glow when an MRI is performed. Eliminating one of these many tests can result in an improper diagnosis, so doctors generally use a combination of all tests to diagnose an individual with MS.
Criteria Doctor’s use in Diagnosing MS
In addition to tests, when diagnosing MS doctors will also run the symptoms and the demographics of the patient against a list of criteria. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with MS then men are. This disease also usually strikes those who are between 20 and 50 years of age, as well as have had at least two episodes which occurred a minimum of a month apart and lasted 24 hours or more. Such symptoms then indicate damage done to the brain and the spinal cord, and if the MRI scan shows 2 lesions or more then the doctor will be able to make a determination diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis. It is important to remember that the more information the doctor can be provided with the better and more definitive the diagnosis will be. Early diagnosis enables individuals to receive treatment for MS as soon as possible.