Questionnaires are valuable tools for diagnosing many disorders. They can find symptoms to trace and help doctors connect the dots to a diagnosis. As a patient, you want to give the most accurate answers to your doctor. With multiple sclerosis, it may be hard to tell which symptoms are related. Having all the options written down may be a good thing. Early detection is vital to slowing progress of the disease. Early detection can occur through a variety of tests and methods.
Questionnaires are just one type of diagnostic tool. On the other hand, doctors do not want to worry patients by attributing symptoms that may not be related to a diagnosis. For some, questionnaires may be intimidating. Whichever way you feel about questionnaires, they are an interesting method to reach out to patients and diagnose diseases.
Questionnaires and how they can help you
Several studies have been conducted on whether questionnaires are helpful. There are many ways to diagnose patients with diseases. Lab tests, scans, inspections, and other methods are valuable diagnostic tools. Questionnaires can be added to the list.
A study Imperial College London and the University Medical Center in Gottingen found some interesting results. It turns out that the way patients with multiple sclerosis answer questionnaires could indicate their survival rate. It was found that multiple sclerosis patients with higher scores on a standardized questionnaire were more likely to die in the next 10 years. What makes this occur? While these tools are not a one hundred percent accurate indicator of severity, within a large sample, they can be analyzed. This can help tailor treatment to the patient’s needs.
As a patient, you may wonder how to be an active participant in your own treatment. By answering a group of questions, you can help the prognosis of the disease. So what questions will you be asked? Do the type of questions matter? What about the method of delivery of the questionnaire? There are many ways to assess if the questionnaire by your doctor is an accurate and valuable tool. The research found that asking about thirty questions and keeping the symptoms to the last two weeks was helpful. If the questionnaire is too long, patients may not finish it or might rush through the answers. If it is too short, it may not give a full enough picture of the patient’s current condition. Since patients may have a change in symptoms, having longer than a few weeks may not pinpoint their current state. If you are taking a questionnaire, it should have a way to rank the severity of the symptoms.
It also matters what content is on the questionnaire. Questions about physical health, mental health, and diet can all help predict outcomes, with varying importance. Pay attention to questions about your physical health. These are predictors of the severity of the disease and potential fatality rates. These questions can also help you communicate to your doctor how you are feeling. This is important for quality of life. This can give insight over time on your condition because your doctor can track your responses over months. They can detect if certain symptoms are getting better or worse. Trend analysis is a vital tool a doctor can use to track each symptom. You can also notate the responses you give each month, to alert your doctor and other medical professions to trends you notice. In this sense, questionnaires are a great way to empower you to take charge of your own healthcare.
As with any method, this one has some setbacks. It may be less indicative if you are early in your diagnosis. As questionnaire alone cannot be a formal diagnosis tool. To diagnose MS, your doctor should be using MRIs, screenings, and other clinical tools. If you have concerns, communicate with your doctor. There is a ton of medical research out there. Your doctor can collect these statistics and compare it to your case. However, questionnaires are only helpful up to a point. Research suggests taking them a couple of times a year at most. Taking one every few days or once is week is probably not indicative of your symptoms. It also can make you more anxious, which is not necessary.
Remember that your feedback is very important and this tool is available to help you, not make you uncomfortable. It can help monitor your diet and mental health as well. How the survey is administered may depend on the population that the survey is dealing with. For the younger generation, online tools are quick and efficient. For the older generation, they may prefer to use paper questionnaires. Each method is fine if you feel comfortable using it. What is most important is that you feel comfortable communicating with your doctor. If you do not like the method that they are using, talk to them about switching to a type of survey that you feel comfortable with.
Other diagnostic tools
Beyond questionnaires, there are several clinical methods for diagnosing multiple sclerosis. The main tool for diagnosing MS is an MRI scan. Magnetic resonance imaging is a noninvasive way to get results from the brain and spine. This scan occurs through radio waves. It can find silent areas of the brain and find lesions. With older people, it can differentiate between natural aging and MS. For those already diagnosed, tracking cerebrospinal fluid can be a good indicator. This liquid is soaked in the brain and is accessed by doing a spinal tap. It is a useful tool because it can find elevated levels of IgG antibodies. It can also have oligoclonal bands, which are a protein. Both of these are found frequently in patients with MS. A third diagnostic tool is evoked potentials. This tool measures the electrical signals in the brain. There are three types of evoked potentials: visual evoked potentials (VEP), brainstem auditory evoked potentials (BAEP) and sensory evoked potentials (SEP). However, only the visual evoked potential is critical to diagnosing MS.
A newer tool is optical coherence tomography. This diagnostic tool can view the structures at the back of your eye. Since the optic nerve is frequently impaired by MS, this is a good way to track MS activity. There are more tools than the ones listed here. Scientific research is finding new ways to detect and treat the disease every day. There is likely a new way to track the disorder, especially if it has been years since your diagnosis. Research and talk to your doctor about all the possibilities in diagnosing and tracking multiple sclerosis.
The bottom line
Answering effective questionnaires can help communicate with your doctor and track progress. It can allow your doctor to focus on the areas of MS that are most distressing to you. As a result, they are critical in medical treatment. However, this is just one way to communicate with your doctor. Your doctor should be available for contact by phone or email within a few days. If you are having an emergency, contact your doctor or go to an emergency room. Getting your symptoms handled will prolong your life and give you better quality of life.
Imperial College London. "Questionnaires can be a good predictor of survival rates in multiple sclerosis." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 July 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170710142333.htm