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09/11/2003 - News

New guidelines for multiple sclerosis diagnosis

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


MRI scans can help make the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis as early as possible, according to new advice.

Traditionally, neurologists have waited for multiple sclerosis (MS) to progress before giving a firm diagnosis of the condition. But this approach is no longer satisfactory as early treatment can improve the course of the disease.

The American Academy of Neurology is now suggesting that there is enough evidence to justify more reliance on early magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans in MS diagnosis. They say that lesions in the white matter of the brain are indicative of a risk of progressing to full-blown MS. In a young or middle-aged adult with a single occurrence of a sign of symptom of MS - such as double vision - a single scan of the brain and spinal cord can be very informative.

According to research, such individuals have an 80 per cent or more likelihood of progressing to MS within the next seven to ten years if there are three or more lesions within the white matter area of the brain. If these individuals can be diagnosed early, rather than waiting for the condition to progress, they can be given drug treatment straight away. This has been shown to lessen disease activity and severity in the future.


Neurology 9th September 2003

Created on: 09/11/2003
Reviewed on: 09/11/2003

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