How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?
No test can diagnose or rule out multiple sclerosis (MS). Instead, doctors check for multiple sclerosis, rule out other possible causes, and identify signs of multiple sclerosis damage.
MS is an autoimmune disease, which means the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body. In multiple sclerosis, it attacks the myelin sheath, the protective layer that covers some nerve cells. Doctors don’t really understand why this happens.
To diagnose sclerosis, three steps must be taken:
- There must be evidence of lesions or damage of multiple sclerosis affecting two different parts of the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerve.
- There must be evidence that the loss occurred at two different times.
- There should be no other diagnosis explaining the injury, such as a head injury or cancer.
The correct diagnosis for multiple sclerosis depends on the individual’s symptoms and whether they have other risk factors. Diagnostic procedures may include:
Complete medical history: The doctor asks about the patient’s medical history, including family history. They may ask about the patient’s environment because exposure to certain toxins can damage the nervous system. Doctors also ask when the first symptoms appeared and how they changed over time.
Blood test: A blood test does not confirm that you have multiple sclerosis, but it can rule out other problems, such as malnutrition, certain diseases, and certain genetic diseases.
Neurological examination: Your doctor will assess how well your nervous system is working by assessing your balance, concentration, coordination, strength, ability to swallow, and the function of your organs.
MRI: MRI uses magnets to take pictures of the brain and spinal cord and sometimes other parts of the body. These images may show lesions associated with multiple sclerosis. A person will sit in a noisy machine for the test.
Lumbar biopsy: A lumbar puncture examines the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for certain changes that are common in MS, such as oligoclonal bands or an increase in proteins called cerebrospinal fluid. However, 5-10% of MS patients do not have CSF abnormalities. Certain changes in the cerebrospinal fluid are also present in other conditions, so a lumbar puncture can only work if your doctor uses it in other tests.
Visually Evoked Potentials (VEP): The VEP test records how signals are transmitted through the nervous system. Doctors use electrodes to measure these points on the head and back. If the signal is transmitted slowly, it indicates the loss of myelin. This damage is a hallmark of multiple sclerosis, but more research is needed to confirm the diagnosis.
Treatment and management
Appropriate treatment depends on the individual’s symptoms, general health, and response to treatment. Some people need to try different treatments to find what works for them. Some treatment options include:
Disease-modifying drugs (DMDs): These drugs can stop new damage to myelin, slowing or stopping the progression of multiple sclerosis.
Medicines to treat symptoms: Some medicines can help manage multiple sclerosis attacks. For example, doctors may prescribe pain relievers, seizure or neuralgia drugs, or antidepressants to reduce symptoms.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy and exercise can help improve coordination and balance and reduce the risk of falling.
Emotional support: Support groups, therapy, and similar options can help people cope with the brain damage and emotional problems of multiple sclerosis.
There is no cure for multiple sclerosis, but treatment can be very effective in controlling symptoms. Appropriate DMD can prevent the development of new symptoms if started early in the disease.
Causes of MS
MS occurs when the body’s immune system attacks healthy tissue, especially the myelin that covers nerve cells. Doctors don’t fully understand why this happens, but some theories include:
Genetics: There is no specific gene that always causes MS or that is passed from parent to child in a predictable way. However, MS can work in several groups. If twins have MS, the risk in humans is 1 in 4, suggesting that both genetic and environmental factors play a role.
Geographic location: MS is more common in areas away from the equator. In these areas, early exposure to certain harmful factors such as viruses or vitamin D deficiency increases the risk.
Infections: Doctors believe that exposure to certain infectious agents, such as the Epstein-Barr virus, can alter the body’s immune system and increase the risk of MS.
Environmental and lifestyle factors: Smoking, like vitamin D deficiency, increases the risk of multiple sclerosis. Obesity in children increases the risk of MS in adulthood.
Symptoms of MS
Many of the symptoms caused by MS also occur with other diseases, making MS difficult to diagnose. Also, some people with early MS may have few symptoms. When symptoms occur, they include:
- Indescribable fatigue
- brain fog
- Muscular pain
- double vision
- Blurred vision in one eye
Natural Treatments for MS
Some natural remedies can help MS, but they are not a substitute for standard treatment. This includes reliable sources.
- Supplement for people with nutritional deficiencies
- Exercise, especially gentle exercises like yoga
Good nutrition is the key to overcoming any disease. Although some people report improvement with a certain diet, there is no conclusive scientific evidence that a particular diet improves symptoms in most people.
If a person does not start effective treatment in the early stages, he will get worse over time. But now doctors can slow the progression of the disease with drugs that can ease symptoms.
Therefore, anyone with signs and symptoms of MS should see a doctor as soon as possible. People with a confirmed diagnosis should consult a doctor if treatment is discontinued.
The test alone cannot diagnose MS. Instead, your doctor will need to perform some diagnostic tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms.