Diagnosing MS

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) can be difficult to diagnose as there is no one test; neurologists usually have to eliminate other conditions and diseases first. Also, symptoms of MS are most often intermittent and appear and disappear over long periods of time. Many people with MS experience seemingly unconnected symptoms for months or years before a diagnosis is confirmed.

A GP will refer a patient on to a neurologist if they suspect a patient’s illness or difficulty is caused by a neurological problem. The neurologist will perform a number of tests to confirm or eliminate MS. Typical tests and strategies many include some, but not all, of the following:

  • A medical history 
  • Neurological examination 
  • MRI scans 
  • Lumbar punctures
  • Cerebro Spinal Fluid examination
  • Myelogram

The results of these tests and examinations may take some time. Because symptoms can come and go, it can be difficult to perform some of the tests. If you are diagnosed with MS, your neurologist will inform you as soon as possible.

The time around and prior to diagnosis can be very emotional. You may experience a lot of frustration due to unexplainable symptoms. Once diagnosis has been confirmed, you may also experience a wide range of feelings; anger, shock, denial, relief, loss are all normal emotions and responses, and these reactions are part of your journey in coming to terms with the diagnosis.

After diagnosis, your neurologist will be able to answer many of your questions and may put you in touch with an MS nurse or give you details about MS Ireland. Some people find it easy to talk and ask questions, others need some time alone. It is important to remember, however, that there are many people available to talk, inform and support you and your family when you are ready.

Click here to watch Dr Mark Mulrooney's talk 'Coping with a New MS Diagnosis. 

MS Ireland recommends that you contact one of our Regional Community Workers once you are diagnosed. Located all around the country, these professionals will be able to visit with you and/or your family at a time and place suitable for you. This private and confidential home visit allows you to talk about any fears or concerns you may have, and will allow the Regional Community Worker to give you suitable information and support.