Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and spinal cord. Multiple sclerosis symptoms may vary, because the location and severity of each attack can be different. Episodes can last for days, weeks, or months. These episodes alternate with periods of reduced or no symptoms. Fever, hot baths, sun exposure, and stress can trigger or worsen attacks.

It is common for the disease to return. However, the disease may continue to get worse without periods of remission. Because nerves in any part of the brain or spinal cord may be damaged, patients with multiple sclerosis can have symptoms in many parts of the body.

A neurological exam may show reduced nerve function in one area of the body, or spread over many parts of the body. This may include:

  • Abnormal nerve reflexes
  • Decreased or abnormal sensation
  • Other loss of nervous system functions

An eye examination may show:

  • Abnormal pupil responses
  • Changes in the visual fields or eye movements
  • Decreased visual acuity
  • Problems with the inside parts of the eye
  • Rapid eye movements triggered when the eye moves

Diagnosing Multiple Sclerosis

Tests to diagnose multiple sclerosis include:

  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap) for cerebrospinal fluid tests, including CSF oligoclonal banding
  • MRI scan of the brain and MRI scan of the spine are important to help diagnose and follow MS
  • Nerve function study (evoked potential test)

Treating Multiple Sclerosis

Treatment at Emory involves multidisciplinary physician teams, state-of-the-art technology and the highest quality patient care. The multiple sclerosis physicians are involved in clinical trials and basic science research projects for multiple sclerosis.