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What is a Multiple Sclerosis Test?

Article Details
  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 20 March 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A multiple sclerosis test is an examination that a doctor performs to help him diagnose multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease of the brain and spinal cord that damages the central nervous system. Tests may also be performed to rule out other diseases as potential causes of a patient’s symptoms. A multiple sclerosis test may also be used to monitor a patient’s progress during a course of treatment for the disease.

MS typically results in a combination of symptoms that can vary from patient to patient. Physicians usually diagnose multiple sclerosis if a patient experiences reduced functioning in two or more areas of the central nervous system on at least two different occasions. Neurological examinations can be an important part of a doctor’s diagnosis of MS—this type of multiple sclerosis test can often identify reduced nerve functioning in one or more areas of the body. Nerve function impairments that may be noticed with this kind of examination include a decreased ability to move a particular part of the body or an abnormal nerve reflex. Decreased and abnormal physical sensations and other losses of nervous system abilities may also be identified with the help of this kind of test.

Eye examinations can be used to identify some nerve problems from MS that affect a patient’s eyes and vision. Changes in a patient’s eye movement, visual acuity and visual field may be observed during this kind of multiple sclerosis test. Abnormal behavior of an individual’s pupils and inappropriate rapid eye movements can also occur in some cases of MS. In some instances, a physician may also notice abnormalities inside a patient’s eyes.

Other examinations for multiple sclerosis can include a spinal tap or lumbar puncture to test a patient’s cerebrospinal fluid for abnormal levels of proteins and white blood cells. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the brain may be performed to find the type of lesions that can occur with MS. An evoked potential test is a multiple sclerosis test that can be conducted to monitor the brain’s response to electrical stimuli or visual stimuli.

Doctors also tend to evaluate a patient’s symptoms and medical history to help them diagnose MS. Symptoms of MS can vary in severity and may include spasms, numbness and difficulties with walking or balance. Eye symptoms may include vision loss, double vision and abnormal eye movements. Constipation, leaking stools and changes in urination can also develop in some cases of MS. Speech problems and fatigue are also known to occur among some individuals with MS.

Physicians may treat MS patients with drugs that slow the progression of the disease such as an interferon or intravenous immunoglobulin. The severity of symptoms can be reduced with steroid treatments in some cases. Other medications may be prescribed to treat specific symptoms of MS, including antidepressants for mood or behavioral disorders and drugs such as tizanidine to treat muscle spasms.

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