Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
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Houston Methodist is internationally recognized as a leader in multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis, treatment and research. We provide advanced genetic testing, precise diagnoses and the latest treatment innovations — including clinical trial therapies not widely available elsewhere.
Our multidisciplinary MS team combines decades of leading-edge clinical research experience to accelerate treatments for this progressive neuromuscular condition. We will design a treatment plan to proactively address the physical, neurological and emotional aspects of MS, helping you enjoy a higher quality of life.
Diagnosing & Treating MS
How is MS diagnosed?
MS affects the central nervous system (CNS) — the brain, spinal cord and optic nerve. Though an exact cause is yet to be identified, research has shown that MS develops when a patient’s immune system attacks the CNS, damaging the protective sheath around the nerve fibers (myelin). This disrupts signals to the brain, causing a range of neurological and functional symptoms that progress over time.
Diagnosis begins with a discussion of your family and personal medical history, including symptoms such as:
- Balance issues, like dizziness or vertigo
- Bladder or bowel incontinence
- Chronic pain
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty walking
- Mood changes, such as depression
- Memory problems
- Numbness or tingling in the arms and legs
- Sexual dysfunction
- Vision loss
Next, we will perform a neurological exam and specific tests to rule out other neurological disorders or underlying health conditions. Tests may include:
- Blood tests to help rule out other infectious and inflammatory diseases.
- A spinal tap (lumbar puncture) to show abnormalities in white blood cells or antibodies that are associated with MS and may help rule out other viral infections as the cause.
- MRI to show MS lesions on your brain or spinal cord.
- Evoked potential to show if electrical signals that occur in response to stimuli are slower than they should be due to demyelination; this test can also uncover nerve damage associated with MS even if the damage is too subtle to appear by other examination.
MS can be diagnosed:
- If you have damage in at least two separate areas of the CNS.
- If there’s evidence that the damage occurred at least a month apart.
- If all other possible explanations have been ruled out.
If you have MS, your personal treatment plan will be designed around your symptoms, long-term health goals and the type of MS you have:
- Relapsing-remitting MS – Patients develop new symptoms that improve partially or completely, then experience a remission period that can last months or years. Up to 70% of patients reach a point of steady disease progression without remission.
- Primary-progressive MS – Occurs when patients experience steady progression of the disease without remission periods.
What treatments are available?
A range of effective medications can help manage symptoms and slow the progression of all forms of MS. For example, steroid medications may reduce inflammation and stiffness. Also, physical or occupational therapy can enhance your mobility and ability to perform daily tasks.
Many patients also benefit from psychological care, such as counseling, to manage the emotional side effects of MS.
I need advanced care or a second opinion.
Houston Methodist’s specialized MS team will provide a comprehensive evaluation to precisely identify the cause of your symptoms. From there, we will design a personalized treatment plan to reduce the impacts of MS on your daily life and optimize your physical, neurological and emotional health.