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Multiple Sclerosis (MS) - Topic Overview

Diagnosing MS isn't always easy. The first symptoms may be vague. And many of the symptoms can be caused by problems other than MS.

MS is not diagnosed unless a doctor can be sure that you have had at least two attacks affecting at least two different areas of your central nervous system. The doctor will examine you, ask you questions about your symptoms, and do some tests. An MRI is often used to confirm the diagnosis, because the patches of damage (lesions) caused by MS attacks can be seen with this test.

Medicines are used to treat MS:

  • During a relapse, to make the attack shorter and less severe.
  • Over a long period of time, to keep down the number of attacks and how severe they are and to slow the progression of the disease. (This is called disease-modifying therapy.)
  • To control specific symptoms.

You may find it hard to decide when to start taking the drugs that slow the progression of MS. The drugs may not work for everyone, and they often have side effects. You and your doctor will decide together when you should start any of these drugs.

There is no cure for MS. Treatment and self-care can help you maintain your quality of life.

Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy can help you manage some physical problems caused by MS. You can also help yourself at home by eating balanced meals, getting regular exercise and rest, and learning to use your energy wisely.

Dealing with the physical and emotional demands of MS isn't easy. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your doctor. You may be depressed, which can be treated. And finding a support group where you can talk to other people who have MS can be very helpful.

Learning about multiple sclerosis:

Being diagnosed:

Getting treatment:

Ongoing concerns:

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
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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