In the past 13 years, I've heard people diagnosed first with viruses, migraines, Epstein Barr and all sorts of ailments before coming to the conclusion that it was Multiple Sclerosis.
My personal story is that after years of having "spells" that included blurred vision, numbness on the right side of my face and arm and leg, and other symptoms that ended up being MS-related. I was tested for years for carpal tunnel problems, or nerve damage in my arm, and then I broke my right foot in three places and could walk for a week without too much pain. That brought me to the neurologist who sent me through a series of MRIs and then gave me the spinal tap that showed the white blood cells, sealing my diagnosis one and for all.
But that's just me.
Getting an MS diagnosis isn't easy. You have to be persistent with your doctors.
A doctor has to find two separate areas of the nervous system that has damage, including spinal chord or brain, and the doctor has to note damage that happened at least a month apart from each other. The doctor has to rule out other possible diagnoses and that is tough because many illnesses are similar to MS.
For diagnosis, an MRI is common to seek out lesions and see if any are new. But MRI legions aren't conclusive. Some people with MS don't even have lesions that show up in MRIs.
A Visual Evoked Potential (VEP) records the nervous system's electrical response to the stimulation of specific sensory pathways. Because damage to myelin (demyelination) results in a slowing of response time, EPs can sometimes provide evidence of scarring along nerve pathways that does not show up during the neurologic exam. Visual evoked potentials are considered the most useful for confirming the MS diagnosis.
Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid, which is sampled by a spinal tap, detects the levels of certain immune system proteins and the presence of oligoclonal bands. These bands, which indicate an immune response within the CNS, are found in the spinal fluid of about 90-95% of people with MS. But because they are present in other diseases as well, oligoclonal bands cannot be relied on as positive proof of MS.
While there is no definitive blood test for MS, blood tests can rule out other conditions that cause symptoms similar to those of MS, including Lyme disease, a group of diseases known as collagen-vascular diseases, certain rare hereditary disorders and AIDS.
Again, be persistent with your doctor. You may have to be the first to suggest that you have MS.
...you might also enjoy these articles:
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- Gene discovery may lead to cause of MS
- New study shows Vitamin D helps MS
- Can pot smoking slow Multiple Sclerosis?
- Japanese find success for MS with Vitamin A-like drug
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