The best way to monitor and help diagnosis the difficult illness of Multiple Sclerosis is with a Magnetic Resonance Image, or MRI. Not only can it assist in the initial diagnosis, but it is important in monitoring the progression of the illness.
But, it's not perfect. Some people with MS don't have any MRI lesions—an estimated 5 percent never have any lesions. And, some people who do have lesions may not have MS. So, sometimes, it takes something other than just an MRI, such as a spinal blood test to show white blood cells, or some other method.
But, MRIs are the best way to see if the disease is progressing. Some neurologists suggest that a patient have an MRI at least once every two years to check to see if the disease has progressed.
MRIs, as uncomfortable as they are for people, particularly those who are claustrophobic, are relatively safe. They cannot be used by people who have staples or artificial joints, pacemakers or histories of aneurysms, brain shunts, cardiac valve replacements or lung disease.
People who go to MRI's should not wear any metal—no piercings, no earrings, no rings, no watches.
After the doctor analyzes the results and compares the scans, he or she will be able to tell if there is a progression in the illness or not.
Interestingly, a recent episode does not necessarily mean there will be an addition of lesions, and in fact, additional lesions on an MRI may be a pre-cursor to an episode that has not yet occurred. Again, consulting with your doctor is the most important thing to do.
PERSONAL NOTE: My own MRI's have shown progressive deterioration in my back and my brain. It is important to have MRI's compared on a regular basis, and if there are some MS episodes, then it is possible to show the progression with more lesions in the MRI scan. I have also been in an MRI machine for a total of 2 hours and 40 minutes (with a short break) and it is very uncomfortable. However, now they make open MRI tubes, so there are alternatives.
CLICK HERE for more about MRS from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/guide/diagnosing-ms-mri