Multiple sclerosis – How is MS diagnosed?

New Multiple Sclerosis Treatment
New Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

[Original article on NHS Choices website]

It can be hard to tell whether your symptoms might be caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) at first, as some of the symptoms can be quite vague or similar to other conditions.

See your GP if you think you have symptoms of MS. Letting them know about the type and pattern of symptoms you’re experiencing in detail will help them determine whether you might have the condition.

If your GP thinks you could have MS, you should see a neurologist (a specialist in conditions of the nervous system) for a specialist assessment.

Tests for MS

Diagnosing MS is complicated because no single test can positively diagnose it. Other possible causes of your symptoms may need to be ruled out first.

It may also not be possible to confirm a diagnosis if you have had only one “attack” of MS-like symptoms. A diagnosis can only be made with confidence once there’s evidence of at least two separate attacks, although this may include signs of attacks on an MRI scan that you may not realise you have had.

Some of the tests you may need to confirm MS are outlined below.

Neurological examination

Your neurologist will look for abnormalities, changes or weakness in your vision, eye movements, hand or leg strength, balance and co-ordination, speech and reflexes.

These may show whether your nerves are damaged in a way that might suggest MS.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is a painless scan that uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.

It can show whether there’s any damage or scarring of the myelin sheath (the layer surrounding your nerves) in your brain and spinal cord. Finding this can help confirm a diagnosis in most people with MS.

A standard MRI scanner is like a large tube or tunnel. The machine is noisy and some people feel claustrophobic while the scan is done. Tell your neurologist if you’re worried about this.

Newer scanners are more open and work quicker than those used in the past, and most people have scans without any problems.

Evoked potential test

There are several types of evoked potential test.

The most common type assesses how well the eyes work. Light patterns are shown to the eyes while your brainwaves are monitored using small, sticky patches called electrodes placed on your head.

It’s a painless test and can show whether it takes your brain longer than normal to receive messages.

Lumbar puncture

lumbar puncture is a procedure to remove a sample of your spinal fluid by inserting a needle into the lower back. Spinal fluid is the fluid that surrounds your brain and spinal cord, and changes in the fluid can suggest problems with the nervous system.

The procedure is done under local anaesthetic, which means you’ll be awake, but the area the needle goes in will be numbed. The sample is then tested for immune cells and antibodies, which is a sign that your immune system has been fighting a disease in your brain and spinal cord.

Lumbar punctures are very safe, but are often uncomfortable and can cause a headache that occasionally lasts for up to a few days.

A lumbar puncture will often be performed to provide extra information if your symptoms or scans are unusual.

Blood tests

Blood tests are usually performed to rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as vitamin deficiencies or a very rare, but potentially very similar, condition called neuromyelitis optica.

Determining the type of MS

Once a diagnosis of MS has been made, your neurologist may be able to identify which type of MS you have.

This will largely be based on:

the pattern of your symptoms – such as whether you experience periods when your symptoms get worse (relapses) then improve (remissions), or whether they get steadily worse (progress)

the results of an MRI scan – such as whether there’s evidence that lesions in your nervous system have developed at different times and at different places in your body

However, the type of MS you have often only becomes clear over time because the symptoms of MS are so varied and unpredictable. It can take a few years to make an accurate diagnosis of progressive MS, as the condition usually worsens slowly.

The brain controls thought, memory and emotion. It sends messages to the body controlling movement, speech and senses.
Inflammation is the body’s response to infection, irritation or injury, which causes redness, swelling, pain and sometimes a feeling of heat in the affected area.
A lesion is an abnormal change in an organ or body tissue because of injury or disease.
MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. It is the use of magnets and radio waves to take detailed pictures of inside the body.

Multiple sclerosis – What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?
What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

Many years ago when I worked in the field of medical market research I was given one very useful suggestion when conducting interviews with people with different medical conditions. My, then, Colleague said I should always ask a respondent what piece of advice should they give to a person who has just been diagnosed with a particular medical condition.

Remembering this recently I thought it might be useful to ask our readers on the MultipleSclerosisTalk page on Facebook the simple but vital question “What one piece of advice would you give to somebody who has just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?”

I have to say the results were fascinating. So I decided to share a few here. If you have any ideas or tips of your own please do write then down in the comments box below.

First off Sophia was please we asked the question. She mentioned “I just found out and I am still absorbing it all while having doctors who will not take the time to explain the implications… I’m happy for this group because I am learning what the doctors won’t tell me.”

One of the most popular suggestions came from Christa. She advised “Learn quickly that your life will change… But don’t obsess over the diagnosis… Adapt… Be strong… Don’t sink into it and wallow in it ….or it will quickly overtake you emotionally… Just my opinion ❤️
Having said that…. Do educate yourself… Be a smart patient… And don’t let them drug you to death… Take what you have to but note some docs will put you on a new pill for every single little thing and you’ll quickly become a mini pharmacy…” In fact a lot of what she has to say applied to pretty much any medical condition and it is great advice.

Looking at it from a more personal situation Linda “Allow yourself time to grieve. That’s the best advice I have received. I would allow myself 15 minutes (to cry in the shower) and then carry on with the day. Also, whenever you have flair, I tell myself “this too shall pass”. Be kind to yourself. Hugs and prayers to you”.

“It is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. I thought so when I got diagnosed. I was depressed in the hospital that evening and the following weeks. But after fighting it by eating healthy and exercise, my MS has been inactive (remission) for a little over a year now. Listen to your body. If you are tired, rest. Don’t try to push through it.” Shared Jaime!

Suzi and Katie focus on their relationships with others. “It sucks and your life will change. Accept support from your family and friends and try not to get mad when they’re being over supportive. You’re not the only one affected. Don’t read the horror stories of how you’ll be in a wheelchair and die young. Most of all think of the disabled parking sticker you get and how much easier Christmas shopping is 😂” said Katie.

While Suzi shared “Don’t let people push you around. If you’re too tired, didn’t remember, or are too weak to do something and someone puts you down because of it and says you’re just making excuses you need to cut them out of your life because all that does is stress you out and bring you down. At the end of the day a good support system is all you need.”

Finally Fiona spoke for many of our readers “Listen to your body. Read and make your own decisions as to what you believe your MS is. No two are the same and only you will know how your MS affects you and the triggers for you.”

As I we said earlier if you have any tips you would like to share please feel free to use the comments section below!

Many thanks in advance!

Are you the only person in your family to have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

Tie One on for Multiple Sclerosis
Tie One on for Multiple Sclerosis

Are you the only person in your family to have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis?

Actually this is quite an important question as many people in the multiple sclerosis community are concerned that others in their family will develop the condition.

Some years ago when I discussed the question with a neurologist they said , rather lamely, that it was genetic in some cases.

So I thought the most useful thing to do would be to ask my readers. This should tell us a bit more about the incidence of multiple sclerosis in families.

Please feel free to add any thoughts you might have about ms and genetics in the comments section below!

Deliver the dream – a retreat for families with a parent with multiple sclerosis

Win a family weekend retreat. Deliver the Dream provides a weekend retreat complete with food, entertainment and lodging to Florida families affected by MS. Children must have a parent with MS or have MS in order to apply. Application deadline is October 11. If accepted the retreat is November 11-13 in Haines City near the Orlando area.


Retreat for families with a parent with multiple sclerosis
Retreat for families with a parent with multiple sclerosis deliver the dream


Natural treatments for Multiple Sclerosis – listen to the podcast here.

Natural Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis
Natural Treatments for Multiple Sclerosis

GeneFo ran last week a fascinating webinar on natural treatments for multiple sclerosis.  Dr.  Trent Austin discussed Biotin, Vitamin D, Turmeric, Fasting  and more. He reviewed the latest research and also provided insights from his own clinical experience.

Genefo have decided to turn the webinar on natural treatment for multiple sclerosis into a podcast.  In fact some of it may be useful for people with other conditions such as fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis.

You can listen to the recording at

If you have any question about the podcast please let us know by using the comments section below.  We will Genefo to comment back.

Many thanks in advance.