Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disorder for which there is currently no cure. The disease is characterized by numbness or weakness throughout the body, vision problems, lack of balance and fatigue. Because there is no specific diagnostic protocol for this disease, a series of tests are usually performed to rule out other causes of the patient’s symptoms. Examinations for multiple sclerosis may include blood tests, lumbar puncture, and a diagnostic procedure known as evoked potential testing. The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is the result when no other physical disorders are found during the examination.
Search for symptoms
See your doctor to discuss your symptoms and possible diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS). Although it is okay to try to diagnose MS yourself, due to the extensive and difficult diagnosis, it is difficult even for a licensed professional to achieve certainty.
Look for early symptoms of MS. Many people with MS experience their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40. If you experience any of the following symptoms, write them down for your doctor so that he or she can use them to rule out other possible health problems:
Blurred or double vision
Clumsiness or coordination problems
Loss of balance
Numbness and armor
Weakness in the arm or leg
Be aware that the symptoms of MS manifest differently in different patients. No two cases of MS present themselves in the same way. So you can have:
One symptom followed by a period of months or even years before the symptom reappears or a new symptom appears.
One or more symptoms close to another, with symptoms worsening over weeks or months.
Look for the most common symptoms of MS. These symptoms include:
Feelings of tingling, but also numbness, itching, burning or stinging on the body. These symptoms occur in about half of MS patients.
Problems with the intestines and bladder. These include constipation, frequent urination, a sudden urge to urinate, difficulty with a completely emptied bladder and the need to urinate at night.
Muscle weakness or cramps resulting in difficulty walking. Other potential symptoms may make this symptom worse.
Illness or shaking of the head. While dizziness is not common, feelings of malaise and numbness are common.
Fatigue. About 80% of MS patients experience chronic fatigue. Even after a good night’s sleep, my MS patients say they feel tired and exhausted. Fatigue associated with MS is often independent of the amount of physical work or exercise you do.
Sexual problems, including vaginal dryness in women, and difficulty getting an erection in men. Sexual difficulties can lead to a lower response to touch, lower sexual needs and difficulty reaching orgasm.
Difficulty speaking. These include long gaps between a string of words, slurred speech, or intense nosiness.
Difficulty thinking. Concentration problems, memory problems and low attention range are common.
Tremors or vibrations that make some daily activities difficult.
Vision problems usually affect only one eye. Examples include a dark spot (s) in the center of the eye, blurred or grayish vision, pain, or temporary loss of vision.
Completion of the diagnosis
Go for blood tests that will bring your doctor closer to diagnosing multiple sclerosis. This will happen by excluding other potential diseases that could cause symptoms. Inflammatory diseases, infections and chemical imbalances can lead to similar symptoms, so your warning light will flash, but at the same time it can only be a false alarm. In addition, many of these diseases can be effectively treated with drugs or other means.
Schedule a lumbar puncture with your doctor. Although lumbar puncture can be painful, it is an essential step in diagnosing MS. This test involves taking a small sample of fluid from the spinal canal, which is sent to the laboratory for analysis. Lumbar puncture is often part of the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis because the fluid may show abnormalities in white blood cells or proteins that may indicate functional disorders in the body’s immune system and the presence of the disease. This test can also rule out other diseases and infections.
In preparation for lumbar puncture:
Tell your doctor if you are taking any medicines or herbal remedies that may dilute your blood.
Empty your bladder.
Sign the informed consent and, if necessary, fill in the required forms.
Prepare for an MRI through your doctor or local health care facility. This examination, also known as magnetic resonance imaging, uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to create an image of the brain and spinal cord. This test can be helpful in diagnosing multiple sclerosis because it often shows abnormalities or damage in these areas that may indicate the presence of the disease.
MRI is considered one of the best tests currently used to diagnose multiple sclerosis, although the diagnosis of MS is impossible with MRI alone. This is because patients may still have normal MRI and still have MS. On the other hand, especially older people may have lesions on their brain that look like MS but are not.
Ask your doctor for an evoked potential test. As doctors learn more about how to diagnose multiple sclerosis, this test provides additional information to accurately determine the disease. The procedure is not painful and involves the use of visual or electrical stimuli to measure the electrical signals your body sends to the brain. This test can be performed by your doctor, but is usually sent to a neurologist for interpretation.
Arrange a follow-up visit to your doctor as soon as all examinations are complete to see if a definitive diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be made. If your doctor can decide on a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis based on the test, you will be treated. This includes learning to effectively manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.