ZocdocAnswersHow is multiple sclerosis detected?

Question

How is multiple sclerosis detected?

I'm a young woman with a family history of multiple sclerosis. Recently I've been noticing some symptoms myself, such as tingling hands. If I wanted to get tested for multiple sclerosis, how would I do that? What kind of test is it?

Answer

Neurological symptoms such as hand tingling can have many different causes and the specialists involved in diagnosis and treatment include internists, neurologists and hand surgeons. Multiple sclerosis is a serious diagnosis and specialists involved in the diagnosis and treatment of this condition include internists and neurologists. Hand tingling can have many different causes including nerve entrapment syndromes such as carpal tunnel syndrome and nerve damage such as a neuropathy both of which can occur simultaneously on both hands. Arthritis, cysts and malformation of the underlying hand/arm tissue can also be causes of hand discomfort. All of these can be evaluated by an internists who can direct you to the right specialist. To more specifically answer your question, the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is made mostly from the history and examination of the patient. However, a number of lab tests can support the diagnosis. Testing includes cerebrospinal fluid analysis and MRIs of the brain and spinal cord to look for MS lesions. Another test that is often performed are evoked potentials which used to detect abnormal CNS function. Finally, there are some studies that show testing for antibodies in the blood may be helpful. It is not possible to come to a diagnosis without examining the patient. The strong recommendation is therefore to get a referral to a neurologist and get evaluated in person.

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