MS Symptoms and Diagnosis

Diagnosing MS is complex and requires a complete review of your medical history, and may include a physical exam and various tests.1

Medical History

A medical history, including symptoms, will provide your doctor with important information when diagnosing MS. Your doctor may also ask about past treatments, ongoing medical conditions, and a history of family health issues.1

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Symptoms

Symptoms of MS are caused by the disruption in nerve signaling from the central nervous system (CNS) to other parts of the body as a result of damage to the myelin (the protective coating around nerve cells) and the nerve cells. The frequency and duration of symptoms vary and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Tingling, pain or numbness
  • Problems with balance and walking
  • Changes in vision
  • Depression/emotional changes
  • Impaired thinking/understanding
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Sexual problems
  • Slurred speech and stuttering
  • Bladder and bowel problems

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Physical Examination

A physical examination may reveal MS signs including1:

  • Irregular eye movement
  • Changes in the way you talk
  • Lack of coordination
  • Sensory disturbances
  • Changes in your reflexes
  • Weakness/spasticity in your arms or legs

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MRI1

A common test in MS diagnosis is the magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI). An MRI can detect the distinctive lesions or scars in the central nervous system (brain, spine and optic nerve) that give multiple sclerosis its name.

After reviewing your medical history, doing a physical exam, and performing an MRI, healthcare teams sometimes have enough information to make a diagnosis of MS. In some cases you may need additional tests to make a confirming diagnosis (spinal tap, blood tests, etc.)

Learn more about Treatment Options. Or check out Living with MS, featuring Brett's Blog, A Peer's Perspective.

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References:
  1. National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Diagnosis. New York, NY: National Multiple Sclerosis Society; 2006. Multiple Sclerosis Basic Facts Series (brochure).

A Peer's Perspective

Brett, husband, father, and professional golfer who has been living with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis since 1995.

Check out Brett's blog,
A Peer's Perspective.

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