Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

By Peter Broderick | It’s often a long, stressful road to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. While technology and medical techniques have certainly advanced in recent years, the diagnosis process still involves collecting a lot of information and putting those pieces together to get the big picture.

Despite the many advancements in our understanding of MS, there’s still no single symptom, or clinical observation, or laboratory test that can determine if you have it. Early symptoms, initial doctor visits, and observations and tests are all pieces of the puzzle that have to be put together.

How we collect and use that information has changed, and in most cases that’s made diagnosing MS a faster and more accurate process. But the reality is that the brain and central nervous system are complicated things, and there are countless possible causes for various neurological symptoms. When we diagnose MS, we’re not only looking for signs of the disease itself, but we’re also looking to rule out a host of other conditions.

In this issue we’ll go through a typical path of diagnosis, from the earliest symptoms to the final determination. We’ll also look at what neurologists are looking for, how they find it, and the guidelines they use for putting it all together — and how that’s changed over time. Finally, we’ll see what’s on the horizon and how research at the Rocky Mountain MS Center at CU may someday change the way we diagnose MS.