How is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Diagnosed?


Multiple sclerosis (MS) cannot be diagnosed through one test alone. A diagnosis requires a neurologist to thoroughly evaluate a patient’s symptoms and other tests to rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms.

The neurologist will perform a physical examination and assess the frequency of symptoms . They may also conduct a neurological exam and other tests, such as an MRI, blood tests, or a spinal tap, to determine a diagnosis.

  • MRI - A magnetic field and radio waves are used to generate a detailed image of the brain, allowing a doctor to see lesions (new areas of damage) that have formed on the brain and spinal cord
  • Blood tests - Although blood tests cannot conclusively determine if you have MS, they can rule out other conditions that may be causing symptoms.
  • Evoked potential tests - These tests record and measure the electrical signals in your nervous system as they respond to stimuli. The tests can use visual, auditory, or electrical stimuli, and a patient’s responses can give doctors valuable diagnostic information.

Spinal tap - This involves the collection of a small sample of cerebrospinal fluid from your spinal canal to be analyzed in a laboratory. This can help rule out any other conditions that may be causing symptoms that are similar to MS, and it can also reveal abnormalities linked to MS.

How is Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Treated?


Although there is no cure for multiple sclerosis, several MS treatment options and strategies are available that can help manage symptoms and modify the course of your condition. Physical and occupational therapies are often combined with medication and can help improve overall function and mobility to treat your attacks. 


Certain medications can be used to modify the course of your MS, such as beta interferons, glatiramer acetate, natalizumab, teriflunomide, fumarates, and S1P receptor modulators, among others. Dalfampridine may also be prescribed to improve your ability to walk. Anti-inflammatory steroids can also be administered intravenously to speed up recovery in the event of a relapse. 

Additionally, other medications may be prescribed to reduce fatigue, such as modafinil or amantadine. Muscle relaxants can also help with stiffness or pain. Medications or psychotherapy for depression may also be recommended.


Most with MS find that their symptoms are best managed when they combine medication with rehabilitation, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. Physical and occupational therapists can help people with MS to improve strength, mobility, balance, and posture. They can also help manage any fatigue or pain associated with MS and assist patients in maintaining essential skills to promote a good quality of life. 

Maintaining a healthy diet and ensuring plenty of rest is important in relieving and managing symptoms. Activities that reduce stress, such as meditation or breathing exercises, may also help manage symptoms. It is important to avoid overheating, as symptoms can worsen in certain individuals as body temperature rises.

Clinical trials

Patients may have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials at NewYork-Presbyterian assessing new therapies for MS to limit disease progression and restore function. Clinical researchers also collaborate with molecular biologists, immunologists, and neuroscientists to examine the molecular basis of the myelin degeneration that occurs in people with MS, identify molecular targets for new therapies, and develop new imaging methods to visualize and quantify nerve cells, myelin, and inflammation in MS. This collaboration also promotes the development of potential therapies to aid in the regeneration of myelin and defining the environmental causes of MS.



Multiple sclerosis affects roughly one million Americans. While it typically appears in young adults between the ages of 20 and 40, it can manifest at any age. Multiple sclerosis is more common in women than men, and although it is not considered an inherited disorder, research suggests that many different genes, often encoding strong immune function, contribute to a genetic predisposition to developing the disease.

Because the progression of multiple sclerosis varies so widely from patient to patient, it is difficult to quantify the impact of MS on mortality. A modest reduction in life expectancy, 5-7 years, is observed with MS.

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Trust NewYork-Presbyterian for Personalized Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Care

At NewYork-Presbyterian, our dedicated healthcare providers understand the symptoms of multiple sclerosis and can provide you with the individualized care you need. Schedule an appointment to learn more about the treatment and care services we provide. NewYork-Presbyterian also provides care and treatment for other neurology conditions, such as optic neuritis, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, cerebrovascular disease, and more.