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Multiple Sclerosis (cont.)

When to seek medical care for multiple sclerosis

The symptoms of multiple sclerosis are very variable and differ from patient to patient. They can also be confused with symptoms of many other conditions. A physician should be notified if you or someone you know has any of the signs and symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis. Also check with a doctor if you or someone you know has any signs or symptoms that may not be associated but that are of concern. The person may not have multiple sclerosis, but because of the nonspecific nature of this disease, it is best to let a qualified professional make that determination.

Several of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be severe enough to send the patient to a hospital's emergency department.

  • If visual changes and painful eye movements are experienced, visit the nearest emergency department. The patient could have optic neuritis, one of the most common early signs of multiple sclerosis.
  • If the patient experiences personality changes or sudden loss of strength in the arms and legs they should go to the emergency department for evaluation. These symptoms are common with multiple sclerosis, but they can also be signs of other serious diseases that require urgent treatment such as stroke, infection, or chemical imbalances.

How is multiple sclerosis diagnosed?

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis is difficult. The vague and nonspecific nature of this disease mimics many other diseases. Doctors combine history, physical exam, laboratory work, and sophisticated medical imaging techniques to arrive at a diagnosis.

  • A complete blood count (CBC), blood chemistry, urinalysis, and often spinal fluid evaluation are all routine laboratory tests used to rule out other conditions and help confirm the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
  • An MRI, which creates an image of the brain or the spinal cord, is used to search for changes within the brain or spinal cord that are particular to multiple sclerosis.
  • More often than not, a neurology specialist is required to make a diagnosis.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/2/2016

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Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an inflammatory, demyelinating disease of the central nervous system (CNS).

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