People with MS often see a team of healthcare professionals: a neurologist (one who specializes in MS, if at all possible), social worker, psychologist, neuropsychologist, nutritionist, and physical and occupational therapists, among others.
The goal of treatment is to slow the progression of the disease or halt it entirely. But measuring this can be complicated, as MS symptoms can fluctuate from day to day and visit to visit. That’s one reason your physician will probably want to see you every three to six months in the first one or two years after your diagnosis. After that, your visits may occur anywhere from every six months to annually. Be sure to follow the recommended schedule of visits so that your doctor can monitor your health over time, conduct necessary tests, and adjust treatments as needed.
At each appointment, ask for a printed or emailed copy of any instructions your doctor gives you, as well as for any prescription refills you need; you should also schedule your next visit. If you experience troubling symptoms between scheduled visits, make another appointment. Taking care of symptoms promptly can make a dramatic difference in your disease progression.
Monitoring Your MS
Once you are diagnosed with MS, you will need regular tests to check on your response to treatment and to determine whether your disease is progressing. Tests may include:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This technology produces highly detailed images of your body. With an MRI of the brain and spinal cord, doctors can spot lesions characteristic of MS, as well as other changes.
- Neurological exam. Your physician will check your reflexes, coordination, gait, and balance.
- Vision. It’s not uncommon for people with MS to experience blurred vision or double vision, so your doctor will look for signs of damage to the optic nerve.
- Other senses. Your doctor may test your ability to feel pain and other sensations, along with your senses of smell, taste, and hearing.
- Cognitive function. MS can affect the way your brain works, so you may have tests that focus on speech processing, working memory, reasoning and planning, visual perception, and language.