Patients with MS may experience symptoms for months to years before they are correctly diagnosed and begin treatment. MS is characterized by an unusual variety of signs and symptoms, many of them subjective in nature.

Common Signs & Symptoms of MS include:

  • Action tremor
  • Decreased perception of pain, vibration, or proprioception
  • Decreased strength
  • Hyperreflexia, spasticity,
  • Babinski's sign
  • Impaired balance & coordination
  • Impaired visual acuity
  • Nystagmus
  • Depression
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fatigue
  • Heat sensitivity
  • Lhermitte's sign (electrical sensation down the spine on neck flexion)
  • Numbness, tingling, pain
  • Bladder dysfunction
  • Visual impairment (monocular or diplopia)
  • Weakness


There is no single test that can diagnose MS. Diagnosis must therefore be made on the basis of the patient’s medical history, report of symptoms, and neurological examination. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is used to confirm a MS diagnosis. However, brain MRIs are normal in approximately 5% of patients with MS. A challenge in understanding MS is the observation that plaques can be "clinically silent." There is often no direct relationship between the number of lesions visualized on MRI and the severity of clinical symptoms.

Imaginis.com http://www.imaginis.com/multiple-sclerosis/multiple-sclerosis-ms-resource-center

Be prepared to answer the following question.

True or False. CAT scans are just as good as MRI for diagnosing MS plaques.

A definitive diagnosis of MS requires both clinical and paraclinical evidence:




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Laboratory and radiological tests are used to confirm the diagnosis of MS

Because there is no single diagnostic test specific for MS, and time between attacks can range from months to years, obtaining a diagnosis of MS can be a long and challenging process. In addition, symptoms differ among patients and are often subjective. Healthcare providers often minimized or dismissed patient concerns.

Some individuals may have minor symptoms and others may experience major, ongoing problems with symptom progression. MS symptoms may occur at the beginning of the disease process, resolve, and never recur, or they may reoccur often throughout the individual’s lifetime. Symptom severity can vary as well in the same patient or within a group of patients.

Some patients express anger or grief when informed of the diagnosis. Others may express relief that they finally know the cause of their symptoms and can begin treatment. Healthcare professionals can assist patients and families by educating them about the array of potential symptoms and how MS may affect them. Patients also need current information regarding MS management, research toward a cure, and new drug treatments information.

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Diagnosing MS can be a long process due to variations in the presentation and duration of signs and symptoms.

Diseases That Can Mimic MS Signs and Symptoms
Infections Lyme disease, syphilis, human immunodeficiency virus infection, human T-lymphotrophic virus type I
Inflammatory conditions sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus
Microvascular disease hypertension, diabetes mellitus, vasculitis, CADASIL
Genetic leukodystrophy, hereditary myelopathy, mitochondrial disease
Compression of brain or spinal cord cervical spondylosis, herniated disc, Chiari's malformation, tumor


The National Multiple Sclerosis Society web site provides an excellent MS resource.