Screening for MS begins with doctors evaluating the patient’s family history and a history of symptoms, and then performing a physical examination that can include a neurological exam, blood tests and imaging tests.
Blood tests, such as a complete blood count and DNA analysis, among others, can help determine if the patient has MS. In some cases, a cerebrospinal fluid analysis, taken using a spinal tap, may also be performed; if MS is present doctors will see elevated protein and white blood cells in the fluid.
Imaging tests, including an MRI and CT scan, can be used to detect damage in the basal ganglia, structural abnormalities and stroke. An electromyogram and electroencephalogram may also be performed to monitor electrical activity within the body and detect nerve and muscle disorders.
In addition, a muscle biopsy is sometimes used to distinguish between nerve and muscle disorders, and is performed by removing a sample of muscle tissue for microscopic evaluation. An evoked potential test, which measures the electrical signals generated by the nervous system in response to stimuli, can evaluate sensory, visual and auditory functions and detect the slowed impulse conduction caused by demyelination.