Currently, no individual symptoms or single laboratory test can be used to diagnose a person with MS. Physicians must instead rely on several strategies to determine if enough criteria are met to confidently make a diagnosis, ruling out other possible causes of symptoms the patient is experiencing. Some of these strategies include:
- Thorough examination of a patient’s medical history
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Evoked potential (EP) testing
- Spinal fluid analysis
Criteria for Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis
To make a proper MS diagnosis, physicians must:
- Find evidence of damage in at least two separate areas of the central nervous system (CNS) – including the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves.
- Find evidence of damage occurring at least one month apart.
- Rule out all other possible diagnoses.
The Revised McDonald Criteria makes the process easier and more efficient in diagnosing MS in new patients, even if they have only experienced one attack. The updated criteria include specific guidelines for MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), VEP (visual evoked potentials) and cerebrospinal fluid analysis to speed up MS diagnosis.
Tools for Making MS Diagnosis
MRI: MRI is the best imaging technology to detect scarring or MS plaques in different parts of the central nervous system (CNS). This test can also distinguish old MS plaques from those that are currently active or new.
Visual Evoked Potential (VEP): Evoked potential (EP) tests record the nervous system’s electrical response to stimulation to isolated sensory pathways – such as visual, auditory or general sensory. Because slowed response time is a result of damage to myelin, EPs can often find the existence of scarring along nerve pathways, something neurological exams may miss. Visual evoked potentials are found to be most useful in confirming MS diagnosis.
Blood Tests: Currently, there are no definitive blood tests for diagnosis, but they can be used to rule out other conditions that may mimic MS symptoms, including Lyme disease, collagen-vascular diseases, rare hereditary disorders and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Learn More from Shepherd Center
Please contact us at 404-352-2020 if you have additional questions about multiple sclerosis.