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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - Exams and Tests

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis (MS) isn't always easy and in some cases may take time.

Your medical history and neurological exam can identify possible nervous system problems and are often enough to strongly suggest a diagnosis of MS. Tests may help confirm or rule out the diagnosis when your history and exam do not provide clear evidence of the disease. MRI and neurological exam may help doctors predict which people will develop MS after a first attack of symptoms.

Tests to diagnose MS

Confirming the diagnosis

MS is diagnosed when it is clear from neurological tests and a neurological exam that lesions (damaged areas) are present in more than one area of the central nervous system camera.gif (usually the brain, spinal cord, or the nerves to the eyes). Tests will also clearly show that damage has occurred at more than one point in time.

Some people have had only one episode of a neurological symptom such as optic neuritis, but MRI tests suggest they may have MS. This is known as a clinically isolated syndrome. Many of these people go on to develop MS over time.

Tests to diagnose other health problems

Urinary tract tests may be needed to help diagnose a problem with bladder control in a person who has MS.

Neuropsychological tests may be needed to identify thinking or emotional problems, which may be present without the person being aware of them. Typically, these tests are in a question-and-answer format.

A blood test for JC virus antibodies may be done if you are being treated with or plan to be treated with natalizumab (Tysabri). This test can help you and your doctor understand your risk for getting a rare but serious brain infection called PML (progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy).

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 15, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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