How to Get Tested For Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

There are only a few reasons you are looking at this article... Most likely you or someone you love is experiencing some odd symptoms whether they are settle or severe, whether they have been persisting for weeks or for years. What could it be? You want to know so bad... You need to know. After doing some research you were led to think that maybe what you or your loved one have is Multiple Sclerosis or MS for short. So what is the next step? I'll explain what you need to do to check if you have MS or not but more importantly is why you need to do this.

Most people experience a long diagnosis process when it comes to Multiple Sclerosis. This can be because they are avoiding the tests do to their fear of the answer they may receive or because of a doctor who is simply dragging their feet... Either way I can tell you this, you want an answer as soon as possible because the answer is not going to affect your symptoms, it is only going to affect the treatment you can receive for these symptoms. If you are afraid of the answer think of it like this, the sooner you get an answer, the sooner you can identify the source of your problem and pursue a remedy for it. If you put it off and it is MS, your symptoms may do permanent damage or cause you more pain for a longer period of time at the least. But maybe you don't even have MS! Maybe you will find out it is something much simpler like a pinched nerve that once is fixed will end your mysterious symptoms all together! The sooner you act the sooner you will know!

OK, so let’s say you are ready to go, but now your doctor is dragging his or her feet! Well then demand that you see a neurologist and get these test done, it's your health and you have the right to get tested! Something you should understand, no one out there cares more about your health than you do, so if you don't care? A doctor won't care. So get the tests done... worst-case scenario you can check Multiple Sclerosis off the list and start looking for what your problem really is.

Testing for Multiple Sclerosis
So, there are two tests you need to get done to be diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. First you need an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Image) of your brain to check for lesions (small white spots on your scan) that may suggest Multiple Sclerosis. An MRI simply involves you lying in a machine (picture right) that uses a giant magnet to take images of your brain. Unlike an X-ray an MRI machine takes images of many layers of an object instead of just one layer (surface). 

If you do have brain lesions then the next course of action would be a spinal tap (Lumbar Puncture) to confirm the diagnosis. This involves placing a needle into your lower spine (lumbar area) and extracting spinal fluid to check for myelin proteins that have broken away from your nerves in your central nervous system. A positive will confirm Multiple Sclerosis but a negative does not necessarily mean that you do not have MS, it just means that there was no myelin protein floating around the sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that was extracted when the test was done. Some people have to go in for several lumbar punctures (LP's) before they finally get an official MS diagnosis!

 Lots of people just dread the spinal tap (Lumbar Puncture) because of how horrifying it sounds! But I can tell you from experience, it's all just a bunch of talk. It really depends on the skill of your doctor. My first LP was "shocking" because my doctor did not seem to have a steady hand and she hit a nerve. My last LP? I hardly felt it!

First they have you lean forward on something while sitting upright or they have you lay on your side almost in the fetal position. Then they numb the area with local anesthetics and finally they place the needle in your back between two vertebrae (lumbar bones) to extract the needed spinal fluid. And... that's it. Quick and easy! You may experience a headache afterwards because they just removed fluid from your spinal cord that flows around your brain so there is now a change in the pressure on your brain.

Fun fact; without the spinal fluid in your head, your brain would collapse under it’s own weight!

The best thing to do to minimize the risk of a horrible headache is to drink plenty of fluids before the test, plenty of fluids after the test, and to plan on laying down for a day or two after the test. If you sit up at all, you will probably get one of the worst headaches ever! If you have to use the restroom I would just try not to take too long.

I know these test may sound scary but they are not. An MRI is really only bad if you are really claustrophobic because they slide you into a sort of tube and you have to stay steady while the machine is running. They will probably offer you medication to help you relax but I have never needed it and I am pretty claustrophobic. The machine makes lots of loud buzzing and beeping sounds which are kind of funny, I have a hard time not smiling like an idiot while I am in there. A brain scan might take around half an hour to an hour depending on if they are doing scans with contrast or not or depending on how detailed of an image they are trying to get.

A lumbar puncture only sucks if your doctor sucks! Well that and if you don't drink enough fluids and lay down for at least 24 hours... Use this time to wat TV, a movie, more go on a Netflix binge!

Bottom Line
Don't let the answer you may get or the tests you have to do scare you away... If you put it off it will only get worse in the long run and the unknown of your situation will torment you. Treat it like a bandage, the quicker you rip it off and get it over with the less pain it will cause. The sooner you get an answer the sooner you can find a solution.