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Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

It is not always easy to make a confirmed diagnosis of multiple sclerosis because early symptoms may be minor and sporadic. It can also be difficult because other diseases can have similar warning signs, and there is no definitive single laboratory test to confirm MS. The diagnosis is made based on a neurological examination and a history of neurological symptoms.

During the neurological evaluation our team sorts out even the most complex cases. Other diseases that mimic multiple sclerosis are carefully and systematically excluded. Some of the tests typically used for this evaluation include:

  • MRI of the brain and/or spinal cord – The MRI often shows plaques or scars typical of MS.
  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) evaluation – Using a lumbar puncture or spinal tap, the CSF evaluation may show immunological abnormalities that help in the diagnosis.
  • Evoked potential studies – Measuring conduction of electrical impulses along the optic nerve (in patients suspected of having optic neuritis) and along nerve pathways in the brain and spinal cord.

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For more information about diagnosing MS, request an appointment with our doctors.

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Maryland Patients

To request an appointment or refer a patient, please contact the Johns Hopkins Multiple Sclerosis Center at 410-614-1522.
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Adult Neurology: 410-955-9441
Pediatric Neurology: 410-955-4259
Adult Neurosurgery: 410-955-6406
Pediatric Neurosurgery: 410-955-7337


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