Doctors learn how to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis through using a series of tests. Each test is designed to rule out other diseases, as opposed to diagnosing only MS. There is yet to be a single test created to identify MS in patients. The doctor will first collect information about your medical background and details on any symptoms you’ve been experiencing. The more detailed you can be about these symptoms, the better. Make a list of symptoms and keep a journal on when they first started, how long they last and how severe they are. It’s also helpful if you jot down anything that causes these symptoms to get worse or better.

Besides this list of symptoms, the doctor is likely to run blood tests, a spinal tap, and at least one MRI. The blood tests are used to rule out viruses and bacteria present in the blood, such as in HIV or Lyme disease. The spinal tap, or lumbar puncture, enables the doctor to see if the antibodies within the cerebrospinal fluid have increased in numbers. The more antibodies there are, the more likely a disease, virus, or a bacterium is being attacked. This test isn’t foolproof, but it is necessary in getting an MS diagnosis.

An MRI scan is taken to check for scarring on the spinal cord, brain, or both. The scarring, or lesions, can also be associated with other illnesses, such as migraines or high blood pressure, but these conditions aren’t connected to the large number of symptoms MS patients experience. Early on in the disease, lesions may not even be visible. To spot active lesions where inflammation is present, a colorless dye called ‘gadolinium’ is injected into the patient before the MRI scan begins. With this dye, the active lesions will appear much brighter than the rest of the brain, as well as much older lesions.


Criteria to Diagnose Multiple Sclerosis


So, how do you diagnose Multiple Sclerosis? Well, the tests mentioned above are run and a short list of criteria is also considered. The criteria require the age of the patient be between the ages of 20 and 50 years old, 2 or more episodes have occurred a month apart from one another and each lasted for more than 24 hours, and there can’t be any other explanation for the current symptoms. The signs and symptoms felt should indicate damage to the brain or spinal cord by a disease and the MRI scan should show at least 2 lesions, if not more.

The doctor will know how to diagnose Multiple Sclerosis by following the criteria, running the tests, and getting a complete list of symptoms from you. The more information you can provide the better for a more thorough diagnosis.