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How does a doctor diagnose MS?

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Quick Answer

A doctor takes a patient's history to look for past or present symptoms of the disease, states the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He also gathers a family history and information about places recently traveled and environmental exposures.

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The doctor takes the information and performs a variety of tests to gather enough evidence to match the current diagnosis criteria, explains the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. One test a doctor might perform is an optical coherence tomography, or OCT. This test is used to examine the back of the retina to view the condition of the retinal nerve. Viewing its condition may give doctors a clue about whether a person has MS, since the retinal nerve is a common target of the disease.

A doctor might also perform an MRI to look for an area damaged by symptoms that resemble those caused by MS, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Another common diagnostic procedure is a spinal tap, which is used to examine the patient's cerebrospinal fluid, notes WebMD. If the doctor finds damage in two parts of the patient's central nervous system caused at two separate points in time and rules out all other diseases, then the diagnosis of MS is confirmed.

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