Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

There are no specific tests for MS. The diagnosis relies on ruling out other conditions that might produce similar signs and symptoms.

Your doctor is likely to start with a thorough medical history and examination. Your doctor may then recommend:

  • Blood tests, to help rule out infectious or inflammatory diseases with symptoms similar to MS.
  • Spinal tap (lumbar puncture), in which a small sample of fluid is removed from your spinal canal for laboratory analysis. This sample can show abnormalities in white blood cells or antibodies that are associated with MS. Spinal tap can also help rule out viral infections and other conditions with symptoms similar to MS.
  • MRI, which can reveal areas of MS (lesions) on your brain and spinal cord. You may receive an intravenous dye to highlight lesions that indicate your disease is in an active phase.

Evoked potential tests

These tests record the electrical signals produced by your nervous system in response to stimuli. An evoked potential test may use visual stimuli or electrical stimuli, in which you watch a moving visual pattern or short electrical impulses are applied to nerves in your legs or arms. Electrodes measure how quickly the information travels down your nerve pathways.

July 10, 2014