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Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will also be done. It often is difficult to diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS) because the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions. There is no definitive test for MS. However, the findings of some tests can contribute to a diagnosis.
Tests may include:
  • MRI scan—This test uses magnetic waves to check for damage to the myelin sheath of the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It can also be used to look for any decrease in gray matter. A contrast substance (gadolinium) may be used to help doctors identify areas of active inflammation. MRI scans can track changes in the disease.
  • Evoked responses—This test records the speed of the electrical responses in sensory, visual, or auditory nerves after a repeated sensory stimulus. This test can help identify abnormal areas affected by MS. Visual evoked potential tests are most often used in evaluating MS.
  • Lumbar puncture—In this procedure, a small amount of fluid from around the spinal cord is removed and checked for white blood cells, antibodies, and proteins. Doctors look for abnormal changes associated with MS.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)- A test to evaluate the effect of MS on the optic nerves as well as side effects of some MS treatments.
Other tests may be done to rule out other conditions that may have similar symptoms.


Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116285/Multiple-sclerosis-MS. Updated March 4, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.
NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/multiple%5Fsclerosis/multiple%5Fsclerosis.htm. Updated November 19, 2015. Accessed September 13, 2016.
What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS. Accessed September 13, 2016.

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