How MS is diagnosed

Learn about 3 common tests used to diagnose MS, and how you can help speed up the testing process
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When healthcare providers diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS), they may use a few different tests. That’s because there isn’t necessarily one single test that can diagnose MS. The tests help healthcare providers rule out other conditions and zero in on a diagnosis.

What tests are used to diagnose MS?

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

This machine takes pictures of the inside of your body and is an important test used for diagnosing MS. An MRI lets healthcare providers examine the nervous system for damage. Since the damage of MS can look like the damage caused by other conditions, this test is not always definitive. Learn more about MRIs.

Spinal fluid test

Checking your spinal fluid for abnormalities can be another informative test.

Evoked potentials

This test checks the electrical activity of your nervous system to see if your sensory pathways are properly functioning. This is another test that may be used to diagnose MS.

Unfortunately, since there are several different tests that may need to be completed, it can take some time to get a diagnosis. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any questions about these tests.

How can you help your healthcare provider reach a diagnosis?

Medical history

Do your best to provide a detailed history of your own health and that of your family. Ask a family member to help you remember details about the health of your parents, grandparents, and other blood relatives.

Keep a journal of your symptoms

Write down any symptoms you're feeling. By keeping a journal, you can tell your healthcare provider about all your symptoms. Your healthcare provider may also want to measure certain symptoms through balance, reflex, or coordination tests.

It’s important to be patient but proactive. Make sure your healthcare provider has the information he or she needs as you work together toward a diagnosis.

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