Diagnosing And Treating Multiple Sclerosis

Posted on: 8 September 2021


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a complex autoimmune condition that damages the myelin sheath, which allows the conduction of nerve impulses. When the sheath is damaged, nerves have difficulties sending impulses that are responsible for many bodily functions. The earlier the condition can be diagnosed and treated, the better the chance at managing the condition and slowing the progression.


MS can be difficult to diagnose, especially since it may cause an array of symptoms that might come and go and do not point to a single condition. Typically, people with MS experience gait and sensory abnormalities. This can include problems with walking, paralysis, and numbness. Bladder and digestive problems are another common problem with MS. Bladder issues may consist of incontinence or frequent urination. Some people may have issues with urine retention, which increases their likelihood of developing infections. Digestive problems may occur in the upper and lower portion of the digestive system. People may experience difficulties swallowing food, causing pain in the esophagus. Constipation is the primary complaint because there may be problems with motility in the large intestine. Emotional and cognitive problems can be symptoms of MS. People may develop depression or other signs of mental illness and they may struggle with their memory and attention.

Diagnostic Tools

Unlike other types of autoimmune diseases, MS cannot be diagnosed with a blood test. A diagnosis can be made based on imaging tests, nerve conduction studies, and spinal fluid tests. Imaging tests, specifically an MRI can be used to detect areas of damage in the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. Nerve conduction studies are used to determine nerve damage and what may be the specific type of damage to the nerve. A spinal fluid test allows doctors to test the cerebral spinal fluid for proteins that are created when there is an abnormal immune response. The results of these tests must meet certain guidelines for a diagnosis of MS. For example, although there may be evidence of damage in the central nervous system (CNS), there must be multiple areas of damage that occurred on separate occasions. Since many of the symptoms of MS can be similar to other conditions, it is also important to rule out other causes.


The treatments available will depend on the specific type of MS. Injectable treatments designed to reduce relapses and slow the progression of the disease are generally approved for relapsing-remitting MS, but there are some options for primary progressive and secondary progressive MS. All disease courses are also treated by managing individual symptoms. For example, issues with chronic constipation may be managed with changes in your diet and medications, such as stool softeners and fiber supplements to prevent stools from becoming hard and difficult to pass. Some people may need treatments to minimize urinary frequency and urgency and learn different tactics to minimize the instance of urinary incontinence.

Reach out to a nervous system specialist for more information.