Multiple Sclerosis (MS): Instead of playing its naturally protective role, in patients of MS the immune system attacks and destroys the protective sheath (myelin) that covers the nerves disrupting the communication between the brain, spinal cord and other areas of your body. MS is unpredictable and affects each patient differently – some individuals may be mildly affected, while others may lose their ability to write, speak or walk. Treatments help retard MS attacks, manage symptoms and reduce progress of the disease.
To arrive at a diagnosis, doctors at GIN will conduct a physical examination, evaluate your health condition, review your symptoms and medical history. In addition they may order several tests to diagnose multiple sclerosis and rule out other conditions that may cause similar signs and symptoms. The tests may involve blood tests, advanced scanning technologies, a spinal tap or even an evoked potential test (see Tech & Procedures for details). Usually doctors at GIN will use several of these tests in combination with physical exams and reviews to confirm diagnosis.
To treat MS specialists at GIN may use a combination of drugs including corticosteroids and beta interferons and procedures like plasma exchange, which separates blood cells from plasma and enables doctors to mix a replacement solution to those cells and return them to a patient’s body. Plasma exchange sometimes may be used to help combat severe symptoms of multiple sclerosis relapses in people who aren’t responding to intravenous steroids. On the other hand medications like beta interferons, Copoaxone, Gilenya and Natalizumab are known to either slow the progress of the disease or reduce the number of MS attacks. Since many of these drugs may have serious side effects, they ought to be taken only under expert medical advice and supervision available at super specialty centres like GIN. In addition to these medicines and procedures designed to slow the spread of the disease, doctors at GIN may choose to prescribe physical therapy and oral medicines including muscle relaxants aimed at alleviating the symptoms and help patients perform daily tasks. A number of other medications and procedures to treat multiple sclerosis like stem cell transplant are under investigation.
Blood tests: Analysis of your blood can help rule out some infectious or inflammatory diseases that have symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis.
Spinal tap (lumbar puncture): In this procedure, a doctor or nurse inserts a needle into your lower back to remove a small amount of spinal fluid for laboratory analysis. Doctors test the fluid for abnormalities associated with multiple sclerosis, such as abnormal levels of white blood cells or proteins.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): An MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of your brain, spinal cord and other areas of your body. An MRI can reveal lesions, which may appear due to myelin loss in your brain and spinal cord. However, these types of lesions also can be caused by rare conditions, such as lupus, or even common conditions such as migraine and diabetes. The presence of these lesions isn’t definitive proof that you have multiple sclerosis. Doctors may inject a dye into a blood vessel that may help highlight “active” lesions. This helps doctors know whether your disease is in an active phase, even if no symptoms are present.
Evoked potential test: This test measures electrical signals sent by your brain in response to stimuli. An evoked potential test may use visual stimuli or electrical stimuli in which short electrical impulses are applied to your legs or arms. This test can help detect lesions or nerve damage in your optic nerves, brainstem or spinal cord even when you don’t have any symptoms of nerve damage.
Plasmapheresis or plasma exchange: A method of removing blood plasma from the body by drawing blood, separating it into plasma and cells, and transfusing the cells back into the bloodstream mixed with replacement fluids.