Testing For Multiple Sclerosis

It has been estimated that approximately 400,000 people in the United States have been diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis (MS). It is not easy for doctors to make such a diagnosis. There is not just one test used to determine if someone has MS. There are also several symptoms a person can have that are similar to this disease. An experienced neurologist, who specializes in treating MS, will know how to use the available medical tests to determine if someone has MS.

Testing For Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis

This is a disease where a body’s immune process has an abnormal response to the body’s immune system. The immune process is used by the body against its central nervous system. This includes the optic nerves, brain as well as the spinal cord. MS is believed to possibly be triggered by a person’s genetics. Some researchers believe it could also occur from a combination of different environmental factors. When a person has MS, their immune system attacks the fatty substance around the nerve fibers known as myelin. The damaged myelin leaves scar tissue known as sclerosis. This can often cause nerve fibers to become damaged or destroyed. This can eventually lead to a number of debilitating symptoms.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This is a test designed to take pictures of organs and other structures inside a person’s body. It utilizes pulses of radio wave energy as well as a magnetic field to create an image. This is a good way for a physician see if there are any changes in a person’s brain or spinal cord that could have been caused by MS. A doctor will want to know all of a patient’s medical history prior to the patient having an MRI. It is not uncommon for individuals who have diabetes or high blood pressure to have spots on their brain that resemble MS. It is also possible for the results of an MRI to show that everything is normal. This does not rule out having MS. Approximately five percent of individuals with MS don’t have it show up on their MRI Test. It is possible for lesions in the brain to be in places the MRI can’t show.

Cerebrospinal Fluid (CSF)

This procedure is also known as a spinal tap. CSF is a liquid that is colorless and clear. It covers a person’s spinal cord and brain. The main function of CSF is to provide a cushion for the brain within the skull. It also operates as a shock absorber for a person’s central nervous system. CSF circulates chemicals and nutrients that have been filtered from a person’s blood. It also removes any waste products from around the brain. When a physician suspects a patient may have MS, they will examine a sample of the patient’s CSF. A person who has MS will have CSF that contains high levels of IgG antibodies. There may also be proteins present that breakdown myelin as well as proteins called oligoclonal bands. An analysis of a person’s CSF by itself will not confirm or deny the development of MS. Up to ten percent of patients who have MS show no CSF abnormalities.

Evoked Potential(EP)

This test is designed to measure a brain’s electrical activity. This is done by stimulating certain nerve pathways. EP can detect any type of slow down within the brain’s electrical conduction. This could be caused by damage along the brain’s electrical conduction pathway. EP can detect this slowing even when it is too subtle to be detected by using other neurological examination techniques. An MS diagnosis requires an EP examination to show evidence of a lesion within two specific areas of a person’s nervous system. EP is effective in confirming an MS diagnosis. It many cases, it can identify a second lesion when no clinical symptoms are visible from other testing.