diagnosing multiple sclerosis
diagnosing multiple sclerosis
The prospect that you might have multiple sclerosis causes enormous stress and anxiety. For most people, it is a frightening and confusing experience that can turn their lives upside down. We understand. We know exactly what you’re going through and how to help. We start by listening carefully and getting the whole story, because no one can tell us about you, better than you.
Anticipating a possible MS diagnosis also raises many questions. We expect and welcome them. We strongly encourage you to bring family and/or friends to your appointments, especially for the first meeting and after a diagnosis has been reached. Their advocacy and support can be invaluable, and an extra set of ears is always helpful.
While a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is straightforward in many cases, the first step is always to get the whole story. And by the “whole story,” we don’t just mean your MS story, but also learning about your life and what’s important to you.
When it comes to testing, we do not order the same battery of tests for everyone. We know that tests are stressful, inconvenient, occasionally uncomfortable, and sometimes expensive, and we do our best to avoid procedures that are unlikely to be helpful. However, for some patients, further tests (such as MRI studies, a lumbar puncture [spinal tap], and blood tests) may be needed to make the diagnosis of MS. We’ll explain our recommendations every step of the way – not just the “what” of what we are doing, but the “why” as well.
As we go through the diagnostic process, it is extremely important that you have all the information you need to feel comfortable and well informed. We view our relationship as a partnership that will continue for many years to come. We do not want you to ever have to wonder why you’re going for a test, or what a test result means. We will explain your results in as much detail as you need and answer every question you might have.
Beyond the First Appointment
We understand that learning of your multiple sclerosis diagnosis for the first time will be stressful and overwhelming. You will likely have many questions, everything from, “What is MS?,” to the genetics of MS, family planning, workplace issues, and more. We are committed to being there for you and to do everything we can to support you, not just at the time of diagnosis, but throughout your treatment and MS journey. We will take as much time with you as you need to answer every question and discuss all your concerns. We will always make treatment decisions collaboratively with you as a member of the team.
Once we reach a firm diagnosis of MS, we will almost always recommend treatment involving a combination of strategies for wellness, management of your symptoms, and specific MS medications (disease modifying treatments or DMTs). The first step in choosing an MS medication is to thoroughly review all the treatment options, outline the pros and cons of each, and decide which of those options works best for you. It’s crucially important that you feel comfortable with a treatment before you start it. We do not expect you to do your own research and make choices without the full benefit of our expertise and guidance. Your treatment will be most effective if we empower you to take an active role in every decision.