How can I control multiple sclerosis symptoms

Multiple Sclerosis - Recognizing MS Symptoms: How Doctors Determine MS

According to estimates by experts, up to 250,000 people in Germany suffer from multiple sclerosis (MS). The chronic inflammatory disease of the nervous system often develops in secret and is usually only recognized late.

Multiple Sclerosis: Why Diagnosing It Is Difficult

Because the symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) are very complex, diagnosis is difficult and lengthy. Unlike many other diseases, there are no typical symptoms that are unique to MS. Therefore, no specific tests or procedures currently exist to identify MS.

Rather, the diagnosis is made up of several examination steps. The results are to be compared with pieces of the puzzle that ultimately make up a specific clinical picture.

Typical symptoms in MS

Multiple sclerosis is also described as "the disease with a thousand faces" because the symptoms can be very diverse. At first, those affected see double vision, have visual disturbances or feel an indefinable tingling sensation in their feet. Later on, depression, visual disturbances, balance problems, and sexual and bladder dysfunction can also occur.

The diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can only be made by a neurologist through extensive examinations. When the disease becomes visible to the outside world and patients can no longer walk or need a wheelchair, the disease is usually well advanced.

If the first neurological symptoms appear, those affected should contact a doctor as soon as possible. The symptoms often go away after a few days. However, only early therapy can stop the progression of multiple sclerosis and positively influence the course of the disease. The autoimmune disease is still not curable today.

Four stages of diagnosis in MS

A definite diagnosis for multiple sclerosis takes place in stages. The first point of contact is the family doctor. If necessary, he or she will refer patients to a specialist, usually a neurologist. The diagnosis is based on four pillars:

  1. Anamnesis (recording of the medical history)
  2. Physical examination (clinical-neurological examination)
  3. Apparative examinations (magnetic resonance imaging)
  4. Laboratory examinations (examination of the nerve fluid, blood tests)

First stage: the anamnesis

In a detailed anamnesis discussion, the doctor first learns about the patient's medical history and possible previous illnesses. The descriptions help to narrow down the possible causes of the symptoms and to corroborate the suspicion of MS. It is also important to know whether the patient or his relatives are suffering from an autoimmune disease.

Second stage: physical examinations

Following the preliminary discussion, the doctor checks, among other things, the function of the eyes and cranial nerves, the sensitivity to touch and temperature differences, muscle strength and muscle tension, reflexes and movement coordination.

For example, one test consists of the patient moving their index finger from the outstretched arm to the tip of their nose with their eyes closed. Many MS patients have massive problems with this motor exercise. In addition to this, neurological examinations can also be carried out. These test various mental functions such as the ability to learn, memory and language processing.

Multiple sclerosis has consequences for the sick in a variety of ways.

If an initial suspicion has been confirmed, the doctor tries to record so-called evoked potentials. These are electrical voltages that occur in the nerve and muscle cells of the human body when an external stimulus is applied. This means that the master speed can be measured in various sensory systems.

For example, the nerves of the eye are stimulated by a checkerboard pattern. The optic nerve then transmits the visual stimulus to the cerebral cortex. Electrodes are used to measure how quickly the impulse arrives in the brain. In this way it can be determined whether the nerve tracts are intact. A slowed conduction speed is an indication of multiple sclerosis.

Third stage: magnetic resonance imaging

In the third step, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is performed on the brain and spinal cord. Possible foci of inflammation or plaques are often found next to the lateral nerve water spaces of the organ. Contrast media can also be used to differentiate between fresh and older MS herds.

If the patient suffers from bladder dysfunction, the doctor can recommend a micturition protocol and perform a residual urine test. The patient documents how often he urinates. The doctor also determines the amount of urine that remains in the bladder after urination.

Fourth stage: lumbar puncture and blood tests

Another important step on the way to diagnosis is the so-called lumbar puncture (liquor diagnosis). During this examination, nerve fluid is taken from the spinal cord. This happens in the area of ​​the lower lumbar spine. The procedure is performed with a thin hollow needle and only takes a few minutes.

The evaluation of the nerve water sample can reveal the inflammation of the brain and spinal cord: If the patient has multiple sclerosis, the number of certain defense cells in the nerve water is increased and antibodies can be detected.

Blood tests and urine tests are just as important. Their main purpose is to rule out other diseases that have symptoms similar to those of MS. Most laboratory values ​​are normal in patients with multiple sclerosis.

Prognosis: So far, MS is incurable

In the case of severe MS, it is often not just the invisible symptoms. A relapse then has the consequence that the affected person can suddenly no longer move their arms or legs. It is also possible that the function of the legs remains permanently impaired and the patient needs a wheelchair.

Experts believe that a malfunction of the immune system is responsible for the occurrence of MS. However, genetic causes are also suspected and investigated by researchers. To date, there are no drugs that can cure multiple sclerosis.

However, certain preparations can reduce the frequency and severity of flare-ups and slow the course of the disease. Corticosteroids, including cortisone, are often given during an acute flare-up. Immunotherapy can also relieve symptoms. The symptoms described above, such as spasticity or depression, can also be treated. However, the drugs used here can have significant side effects.

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.