Multiple Sclerosis | Diagnosis & Tests

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How do I know if I have multiple sclerosis (MS)?

There is no one test to tell if you have MS. Like other autoimmune diseases, MS may be difficult to diagnose. Often, the first symptoms of MS affect the eyes, causing blurred or double vision, or red-green color distortion. However, symptoms can also affect different parts of the body. Your doctor will ask you about your medical history, and use several strategies to determine if you have MS. Before making a diagnosis, your doctor will rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.

Your doctor may also order tests:

Blood test. Your blood can show signs of other illnesses that cause symptoms similar to the symptoms of MS.

Neurological tests. Your doctor may want you to see a neurologist who can test how well your nervous system is working. The tests will look for changes in eye movements, muscle coordination, weakness, balance, sensation, speech, and reflexes.

Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). A small amount of fluid taken from your spine can show abnormal amounts of blood cells or proteins associated with MS. A spinal tap can also rule out a viral infection or other possible conditions.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). An MRI can show detailed pictures of the brain and spinal cord, and if there are any lesions present. However, lesions aren’t always caused by MS.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Created: 04/10

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