Healthy Living

Can Lab Tests Help Reach a Diagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis?

Can Lab Tests Help Reach a Diagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis?

A multiple sclerosis diagnosis is quite difficult since the disease presents uncertainties. The symptoms of MS are similar to other diseases that are brought about by other conditions of the central nervous system (CNS), which include diseases that infect the CNS such as AIDS, syphilis, and Lyme disease. The conditions that cause CNS inflammation, microvascular diseases of the CNS, and disorders emanating from genetics also have symptoms similar to those presented by multiple sclerosis. MS needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible with a high degree of precision. Currently, a successful diagnosis of MS cannot be done in a single test but involves some neurological, blood, and diagnostic tests that include the analysis of the spinal fluid. The doctor also takes your entire medical history to assist in the analysis of the presence or absence of MS.

In modern times, there has been no single lab test that can identify the presence of MS. Research on this is still ongoing, but there are a couple of lab tests that have successfully identified the disease in patients. The primary tests include:

  • Analysis of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Visual evoked potential (VEP)

Cerebrospinal Fluid Analysis

In a cerebrospinal fluid analysis, various lab tests are done. First, we have isoelectric focusing and electrophoresis of the CSF. In this technique, biological fluid proteins are separated, where the serum and CSF of the patient are separated. If more than two IgG bands are present in the CSF and absent in the serum, it is an indication of a positive oligoclonal banding test. Oligoclonal banding is present in more than 90 percent of MS patients.

When there is an increased concentration of the basic protein of the myelin in the CSF, it is indicative of a demyelination process. A positive test for the basic protein shows the possibility of the presence of a neurological disease including MS. The reason is that other diseases of the central nervous system can also heighten the levels of the basic protein in the CSF.

The index of the CSF Immunoglobulin G (IgG) levels can also be used to diagnose MS. If they are present in large quantities, excessive CNS production of the CSF IgG could have been the cause. This excessive production is usually observed in MS and other illnesses. Plasma protein leakage into the CSF could also be the cause for the high amounts of CSF IgG. A calculation of the IgG index from measurements emanating from albumin and IgG determinations is done to ascertain if MS is truly present. A high index is found in more than 90 percent of MS cases.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This a test carried outside the lab and offered assistance to medical officers doing a brain examination. It’s usually done through MRI scanning and proves essential in figuring out the gradual progress of MS. To avoid severe MS symptoms due to late diagnosis; MRI offers a way in which the disease can be diagnosed in its early stage. This also helps in its treatment. This technique has other advanced techniques that can also perform in MS diagnosis.

Visual Evoked Potential (VEP)

This technique allows the determination of nerve transmission speeds in the different parts of the brain. The electrical response of the nervous system to visual stimuli gives the record of these measurements. If the myelin is damaged, the time of reply of the nervous system is decreased. These tests can also show scarring and associated nerve pathways.

Lab Tests and Diagnosis

Diagnosing multiple sclerosis may not be the easiest thing to do. However, a number of tests can confirm or rule out the presence of multiple sclerosis. Different individuals require different courses of treatment, depending on their condition. Since the causes are not very clear, the diagnosis might not be done immediately. MS is a condition of the nervous system that affects the myelin sheath. Thus, the symptoms and signs manifest in different ways over different periods of time. 

Blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), neurological examinations, tests to measure the electricity of the brain, spinal taps, and other specific tests are done to help in the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Some or a combination of tests are prescribed until the final outcome is achieved. Most medical centers believe that no single test can confirm multiple sclerosis. However, a number of tests can be done to rule out the presence of other medical conditions. Some of these include lupus, Devic’s disease, arthritis, vitamin deficiencies, among others.

Knowing Multiple Sclerosis

In order to take up tests for multiple sclerosis, one must first be familiar with the signs and symptoms. There could be mild ones or progressive symptoms that occur after a certain period of having it. It begins with a tingling sensation, numbness, overall weakness and fatigue, and a lack of coordination that progresses to bladder problems, bowel issues, hearing loss, seizures, breathing problems, as well as issues with the throat and swallowing.

Known to affect the nervous and immune system, it could have secondary and tertiary implications. Immobility could lead to sores and other health issues. MS is a demyelinating disorder of the nervous system. Thus, the conduction of nerve impulses slows down, thereby affecting other neurological functions that lead to long-term neurological disabilities. These cell-mediated autoimmune attacks interfere with the normal functioning of the nervous system.

The lifetime risk of developing MS is 1 in 400. Women are twice as commonly affected than men. Caused by an interplay of multiple genetic and environmental factors, the incidence varies with latitude being low in equatorial areas and higher in temperate zones. The risk of familial recurrence is 15 percent, while the highest is of first-degree relatives. 

Multiple sclerosis results in inflammation and some additional clinical features could include optic neuritis, sensory symptoms, subacute painless spinal cord lesion, brainstem syndrome, nerve palsy, and neuralgia. It is important to have a relaxed clinical course. Proper care, therapy, treatment, and a diet devoid of fats and processed foods can help achieve a speedy recovery.