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Testing for MS

Tests Used in Diagnosing MS

Recent advances in technology have helped doctors diagnose people with MS earlier than in times past. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a non-invasive form of taking pictures of the brain to detect MS lesions, has been particularly helpful in this area.
MRI is the best test for making an MS diagnosis. An MRI scan produces x-ray-like images that are better than other methods for seeing certain areas of the central nervous system. With MRI, it is possible to see the places where myelin has been damaged. Myelin is a fatty covering surrounding nerves throughout the body that helps them conduct impulses more quickly.
If an MS diagnosis is still uncertain after an MRI, your healthcare provider may do a test that measures how fast your nerves conduct impulses. This is called an evoked potentials test.
Also, a sample of fluid from your spine may be analyzed for protein changes that are often found in people who have MS. This is called a spinal tap, LP, or lumbar puncture.
More than one MRI may be done over time. Several MRIs can show plaques appearing in different areas of the central nervous system at different times. This confirms an MS diagnosis.

Final Thoughts

Investigators are continuing their search for a definitive test for MS. Until one is developed, however, evidence of multiple attacks and lesions in the central nervous system must be present before an MS diagnosis is given.
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