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Diagnosis Neurology & Neurosurgery

Multiple Sclerosis

When considering a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, your doctor will be particularly interested in hearing about your symptoms, when they started and how they've eased or progressed over time.

Your diagnosis also will be based on a physical examination and tests. These tests may include:

  • Blood and urine tests to help rule out other possible disorders
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) to measure electrical activity in the heart
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to look for abnormalities in the brain
  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap to determine if there are abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid, one of the signs of MS
  • Evoked potentials test, which records electrical activity in the brain when nerves are stimulated

Medical conditions that can mimic MS include metabolic or vitamin deficiencies, unusual infections, inflammation of the blood vessels of the brain, degenerative disorders of the nervous system or cancers that have spread to the brain. This is why blood tests, X-rays, brain and spine MRIs, and spinal taps to analyze cerebrospinal fluid may be required before a diagnosis of MS can be made with certainty.

A diagnosis of MS is based upon an evaluation of your symptoms along with the results of your physical exam and tests.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.