Welcome Page The Neurologist Neurology Find Us Patient Forms
Welcome Page
The Neurologist
Find Us
Patient Forms
Patient Library
Memory Loss
Sleep Disorders
Movement Disorders
Feedback Form


Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

Diagnosis of MS is based on a detailed history, physical and neurological examination, blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan), spinal tap, and neurological tests.

Blood tests 

Blood tests may be used to help rule out other conditions that cause similar symptoms.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) 

MRI scan uses a magnetic field to create detailed images of the brain and spinal cord. This imaging test can be used to detect lesions in the white matter of the brain.
Spinal Tap 

A spinal tap, also known as a lumbar puncture, is performed to detect oligoclonal bands in cerebrospinal fluid. Oligoclonal bands result from elevated levels of the antibody immunoglobulin G (IgG) and myelin basic protein, which is a byproduct of demyelination, and are present in more than 85% of MS cases. In this procedure, a needle is inserted between two lower spine (lumbar) vertebrae and cerebrospinal fluid is collected and analyzed.

Evoked potentials are electrical signals generated by the nervous system in response to stimuli. Evoked potential tests (i.e., somatosensory evoked potentials, visual evoked potentials, brainstem auditory evoked potentials) are performed to evaluate sensory, visual, and auditory functions and detect slowed nerve impulse conduction caused by demyelination.

In these tests, nerves responsible for each type of function are stimulated electronically and responses are recorded using electrodes placed over the CNS (brain and spine) and peripheral nerves (e.g., median nerve in the wrist, peroneal nerve in the knee).

Differential Diagnosis

Early signs of MS are often mistaken for other disorders, including the following:

  • Cerebrovascular disease (e.g., stroke, transient ischemic attack [TIA])
  • Epilepsy
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Tumor
  • Vitamin B-12 deficiency
  • Weakening of the nerves (neuropathy)

Conditions that may appear similar to MS on MRI scan include the following:

  • Congenital biochemical disorders (e.g., adrenaleukodystrophy, metachromatic leukodystrophy)
  • Inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis)
  • Lyme disease
  • Lupus (an autoimmune disorder)
  • Progressive multifocal leukencephalopathy (HIV-related disorder)
  • Viral infection (may produce a response that causes demyelination)


Raymond Rybicki, MD

This information is for general educational uses only. It may not apply to you and your specific medical needs. This information should not be used in place of a visit, call, consultation with or the advice of your physician or health care professional. Communicate promptly with your physician or other health care professional with any health-related questions or concerns.

Be sure to follow specific instructions given to you by your physician or health care professional.

The materials provided at this site are for informational purposes and are not intended for use as diagnosis or treatment of a health problem or as substitute for consulting a licensed medical professional. Check with a physician if you suspect you are ill, or believe you may have one of the problems discussed on our website, as many problems and diseases may be serious and even life-threatening. Also note while we frequently update our website's content, medical information changes rapidly.

Site Map