What to Expect
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease that affects the central nervous system (CNS). Specifically, the disease attacks the brain, optic nerves, and spinal cord. There are approximately 400,000 people with MS in the United States and some 2.5 million worldwide, with women affected two to three times as often as men. Most individuals are diagnosed between the ages of 20-50 years old, but the disease can begin during childhood or adolescence as well as later in life. MS is a highly variable and unpredictable illness and the progression, severity, and specific symptoms differ among individuals.
MS is considered an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks the myelin in the CNS. Myelin is the fatty substance that covers and protects nerve fibers and allows for the rapid transmission of signals from the brain to various parts of the body. Damage to myelin disrupts these signals and renders the nerve fibers susceptible to further injury. This can result in a variety of symptoms including blurred vision, numbness, tingling, balance difficulties, dizziness, muscle tightness, problems with coordination, and weakness. As recently as 1992, MS was not a treatable disease. Fortunately, there have been major advances in MS therapeutics and we now have a variety of treatments that alter the course of the disease.
MS is a complex disease that is very difficult to diagnosis. There is no one test to determine if someone has MS. The diagnosis should ideally be made by a subspecialty-trained MS neurologist after completion of:
- a detailed patient history interview
- thorough neurological examination
- extensive blood work
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Additional tests, such as a lumbar puncture (also known as a spinal tap) or visual evoked potentials (VEPs) are sometimes required. A number of other illnesses can mimic MS and should be excluded before a diagnosis is made.
Although the future is brighter than ever for MS patients, our treatments are not a cure and all are only partially effective. Our goal is to provide comprehensive, coordinated care that helps patients optimize these treatments, manage their illness, and improve their quality of life.
How to Prepare for Your First Visit
A new patient should bring prior images on CD as well as written records of past evaluations, laboratory studies, and imaging reports.
Expect 15 to 30 minutes for registration and paperwork, and 60 minutes with the MD. Often additional information is needed to confirm a diagnosis and treatment plan and short term follow up visits are often scheduled within a few weeks of the initial visit to determine a treatment plan.