Update on Multiple Sclerosis | UCLA Neurology
When to See a Neurologist for MS
Is it multiple sclerosis (MS), or something completely unrelated? Say you feel some numbness in one leg and a pins-and-needles tingling in your hands. These symptoms could be due to MS, but they are vague and could be caused by many conditions.
Your next step should be to schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor to discuss what’s going on. If your physician suspects MS, you will likely be referred to a neurologist, who can make a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis.
MS is an autoimmune condition that occurs when your body misfires against its own central nervous system. The target is the myelin sheath, the fatty layer surrounding nerve fibers. If you have MS, your nerve signals slow down or stop, and this may cause numbness, vision problems, trouble with balance, and other symptoms.
Because multiple sclerosis is a progressive disease, and because new treatment advances are occurring all the time, seeing a neurologist who is experienced in treating MS can make a significant difference in managing the illness.
Getting a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis
Many MS symptoms come and go, and it can be tempting to minimize them. “If you go blind in an eye and your vision returns, it is easy to think it was caused by a virus or headache and move on. But the best time to see a neurologist is with the very first symptom, which is the beginning of the disease,” says Karen Blitz-Shabbir, DO, assistant professor at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Center at the North Shore-LIJ Cushing Neuroscience Institute in Manhasset, New York. “Any significant symptom needs to be evaluated, even if it goes away.”
Significant symptoms may include:
- Loss of vision
- Changes in how you walk
- Vertigo or dizziness
A neurologist will listen to your concerns, take your medical history, and order several tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Together, these findings will help make a diagnosis.
Seeing a specialist will help give you the answers you need. “Only a neurologist can establish a diagnosis of MS,” says Lana Zhovtis Ryerson, MD, a neurologist and an assistant professor of neurology at the NYU Langone Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center in New York City. Many other conditions may have similar symptoms to MS, and a neurologist can best sort these out. If your symptoms are caused by something other than a neurologic condition, your primary care doctor may take over your treatment.
How Often to See Your Neurologist
Your neurologist is the point person for monitoring your treatment and managing MS symptoms. The timing of your visits depends largely on both the progress of your multiple sclerosis and your MS treatment regimen. For example, if you are taking disease-modifying drugs for MS, your neurologist will want to monitor you for any side effects, so you may be seen more often.
“Patients with MS are seen every few months, depending on how they are doing, to discuss any new MS symptoms, side effects of medications, and to do a comprehensive neurological exam to ensure stability,” Dr. Zhovtis Ryerson says.
Visits also depend on whether you have very limited symptoms or a more aggressive MS that requires treatment, says Nancy L. Sicotte, MD, the director of the Multiple Sclerosis Program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. “If symptoms worsen or new symptoms appear, it is important to see your neurologist to confirm if this is really a flare.”
Some communities have MS specialty care centers that are staffed with neurologists, social workers, occupational therapists, nurses, and other health professionals who deal exclusively with multiple sclerosis. “Even if you live far away from an MS center, you could set up a system where you see a local neurologist regularly, but visit with an MS specialist as well,” Dr. Sicotte says.
The course of MS can be unpredictable, and the best way to manage it is to choose a neurologist whom you trust and who is accessible, Blitz-Shabbir adds.
Your neurologist should also be aware of all new developments in this field. “Fortunately, the science is bursting,” Blitz-Shabbir says. “We know so much more about genetics than in the past, and new treatments are being developed.”
By working with a neurologist, you can confirm if your symptoms are indeed MS, and do what you can to keep the condition from progressing.
Video: OhioHealth Multiple Sclerosis Lecture-Understanding Your MRI
Men Are More Willing Than Ever to Move for Their Wives Jobs
This transcript of Donald Trump’s latest press conference has left the world baffled
How to Have Fun when Youre Bored
Ted Baker Player’s Edition Toiletries Collection
How to Make Whole Wheat Bread in a Machine
How to Get Married in Hawaii for Cheap
Every Girl Is Going to Lose Her Mind Over Zaras Ballet Collection
How to Decrease Platelets
Chorizo, Tomato, and Cheese Pizzas