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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Multiple sclerosis

*

* Not a rare disease
Información en español

Other Names for this Disease
  • MS
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Tests & Diagnosis

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How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) may be similar to those of many other nervous system disorders. The disease is made based on the person's signs and symptoms and is typically diagnosed by ruling out other conditions.[1][2]

"Dissemination in time and space" are commonly-used criteria for diagnosing the relapsing-remitting form of MS (RR-MS). "Dissemination in time means" that there are at least two clinical attacks, each lasting at least 24 hours, separated by at least one month, or a slow, step-wise progressive course for at least six months. "Dissemination in space" means that there are lesions in more than one area of the brain or spinal cord. For primary progressive MS (PP-MS), there are currently no diagnostic criteria that are universally accepted.[1]

Physicians may do many tests to evaluate an individual suspected of having MS.
  • Neurological Exam: May show reduced nerve function in one area of the body or over many parts of the body. This may include abnormal nerve reflexes, decreased ability to move a part of the body, decreased or abnormal sensation, and other loss of nervous system functions.
  • Eye Exam: May show abnormal pupil responses, changes in the visual fields or eye movements, decreased visual acuity, problems with the inside parts of the eye, and rapid eye movements triggered when the eye moves.
  • Other Tests: Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) for cerebrospinal fluid tests, MRI scan of the brain, MRI scan of the spine; nerve function study; and several of blood tests.[2] The Revised McDonald Criteria, published In 2010 by the International Panel on the Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, include specific guidelines for using MRI, visual evoked potentials (VEP) and cerebrospinal fluid analysis to speed the diagnostic process.[3]
  • Last updated: 11/21/2015

    References
    1. Stüve O, Oksenberg J. Multiple Sclerosis Overview. GeneReviews. May 11, 2010; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK1316/. Accessed 11/20/2015.
    2. Zieve D. Multiple Sclerosis. PubMed Health. August 5, 2010; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001747/. Accessed 3/30/2011.
    3. What is Multiple Sclerosis?. National MS Society Web site. http://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS. Accessed 11/20/2015.


    Other Names for this Disease
    • MS
    See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.