There are a variety of tests to determine if you have MS. Read on to discover some of the methods used to reach a diagnosis.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
MRIs are a medical imaging scan used to detect damage or scarring (i.e., lesions) caused by MS in the central nervous system, which is made up of the brain, optic nerves and spinal cord.
An MS diagnosis may not rely solely on an MRI result, as it’s possible for it to detect:
- lesions caused by another disease
- lesions in healthy people with no ongoing disease.
Sometimes, your medical history and results of other clinical testing can point to having MS. Your MRI results are one piece of the puzzle to create a clear MS diagnosis. Read more about MRIs and MS.
During a clinical exam, a doctor will examine you for a range of symptoms, including:
- movement and strength
- balance and coordination
- functions of the five senses (eyesight, taste, hearing, smell, and touch)
- muscle tone and reflexes
- memory and thinking.
Your medical history is also taken into consideration.
Other diagnostic tests
In many cases, an MRI scan and clinical exams will be enough to diagnose MS. If results are unclear, additional tests may be needed. This can include:
- electrical diagnostic studies – which can show if there’s a slowing of messages in the various parts of the brain
- cerebrospinal fluid studies – which test for a clear fluid that protects your brain and spine. Having multiple oligoclonal bands (proteins) is a sign of inflammation in the central nervous system, which could be caused by MS or another disease
- blood tests – which can be used to rule out other causes for symptoms you’re experiencing.
This page has been reviewed and approved by Executive Manager Client Engagement and Wellbeing Jodi Haartsen. Jodi is a registered MS Nurse who has helped thousands of patients over her 20 years’ experience at Eastern Health MS service in Australia, in several roles including nurse educator, research nurse and nurse practitioner. Jodi is the 2022 winner of the global MS Brain Health Leader Award in the Independent Healthcare Professionals category.