Many conditions have symptoms similar to MS and can be confused with Multiple Sclerosis. MS symptoms are variable and different for every person. The most common symptoms, such as vision problems, dizziness, numbness, etc. are vague symptoms and don't necessarily indicate MS. There is no single diagnostic test to confirm the presence of MS and your medical history in addition to your symptoms and a series of diagnostic tests are necessary to properly diagnose your disease. Your doctor (preferably a neurologist) will perform several tests, including:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the brain and spine:
MRI is one of the most powerful tools used for diagnosing MS as it captures images of lesions (damaged areas) in the brain and spinal cord. This technique detects signs of inflammation and demylination caused by MS and help your doctor monitor changes in your Central Nervous System (CNS). MRI is usually considered the most helpful tool in diagnosing MS.
Spinal Tap (lumbar puncture) test:
This test is used to check your Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF) - a colorless fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord. To perform this test, your doctor will insert a needle into your lower back and collect your CSF for testing. A high concentration of a certain type of proteins and other substances will indicate that your immune system is attacking itself - which is important for diagnosing MS. Spinal tap tests help doctors to rule out other conditions that may have symptoms similar to MS.
Evoked Potentials (EP) tests:
EP tests are used to diagnose MS or other conditions. EP tests can help your doctor/neurologist to test your brain's response and electrical activity when:
1- You watch a pattern on a screen (Visual Evoked Potentials or VEP)
2- You hear a series of clicks through a headphone (Brain Stem Auditory Evoked Potentials or BAEP)
3- You receive electrical pulses on your arms or legs (Somatosensory Evoked Potentials or SEP)
Your doctor will use EP tests to identify abnormal responses of your brain to stimulation - which could be a sign of MS or other conditions
Blood tests may reveal specific substances in your blood and help your doctor to rule out other conditions (such as cancer, HIV, etc.).
Your doctor/neurologist may use some or all of the above-mentioned tests along with your symptoms, medical hist
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