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Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:

Condition InDepth

Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS can be hard to diagnose. The symptoms can be the same as other health problems. The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical and neurological exam will be done. There is no specific test for MS. A person's health history, exams, and other test results can lead to a diagnosis.

Tests that may be done are:

  • MRI scan—This test uses magnetic waves to check for harm to the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. It can also look for a loss of gray matter. A contrast material may be used to help doctors see places of active inflammation. This test can also track changes in the disease.
  • Lumbar puncture—A small amount of fluid from around the spinal cord is removed and checked for white blood cells, antibodies, and proteins. Doctors look for changes that are common with MS.
  • Evoked responses—This test records the speed of the electrical responses in certain nerves after a repeated stimulus. This test can help find areas impacted by MS. Visual evoked potential tests are most often used in checking for MS.
  • Optical coherence tomography (OCT)—This test looks for MS changes in the nerves of the eyes.

Other tests may be done to rule out other health problems that look like MS.


  • Multiple sclerosis (MS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/multiple-sclerosis-ms.
  • NINDS multiple sclerosis information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Multiple-Sclerosis-Information-Page.
  • What is MS? National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Available at: https://www.nationalmssociety.org/What-is-MS.


  • James Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.