How is MS Diagnosed?

How did the Doctor know I have MS?

There is no laboratory test, symptom, or physical finding which, when present or positive, always means a person has MS.  Some of the symptoms of MS could also be caused by other diseases.  Consequently, the diagnosis of MS must be made by a careful process which demonstrates findings that are consistent with MS and that also rules out other possible causes. 

There are two criteria in relation to diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis:

1. There must have been two attacks at least one month apart.  An attack, also known as an exacerbation, flare, or relapse, is a sudden appearance of or worsening of an MS symptom or symptoms which lasts at least 24 hours.

2. There must be more than one area of damage to central nervous system myelin - the sheath that surrounds and protects nerve fibres. The damage to myelin must have occurred at more than one point in time and not have been caused by any other disease that can cause demyelination or similar neurologic symptoms. 

In my case my symptoms had been active for months but showing in different ways, all of which had plausible explanations:

Pins and needles in my legs and feet - surely that was from my bad nurses back and a CT guided epidural steroid injection fixed that...until they came back 3 weeks later.

Dizziness  - the GP said I had BPPV (Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo).

Fatigue - doesn't everyone get tired, especially doing shift work? 

My left hand spasmed sometimes in the morning - I must've slept on my arm for to long.

Altered sensations on my abdomen and back - no explanation for that one.....

It wasn't until I started getting pins and needles in my hands that I started to think that something was really wrong, so I made an appointment with my GP and after a neurological exam she sent to off for an MRI of my brain and cervical spine.  The results of these scans confirmed the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis by my Neurologist on the 4th of April 2013.  This is when I was admitted to hospital for intravenous steroids to stop the attack.  If you have read my pervious blog you will know I also had a lumbar puncture for further confirmation of the diagnosis.  

This is when my journey started.

For more information about other tests that are available that I didn't need to have for my diagnosis click here.