The Importance of Monitoring Your MS
Testing measures like MRIs are used to determine how a person's MS is progressing. It is important for physicians to continue to monitor patients with MS after diagnosis, to provide more effective treatment – regular testing helps doctors to see how well treatments are working and choose treatments based on individual patient needs.
Testing also helps to give doctors an overall understanding of how the disease progresses through various treatment options to help researchers learn more about the disease and more effective ways to treat or slow the progression.
If testing shows that a certain medication isn't working, the physician can use a more aggressive therapy to try to slow the progression of MS. However, many medications take time to start showing improvement. If it's only been a short time and you are not experiencing a reduction in symptoms, your physician may ask that you give the medication more time to work before trying something different.
MRI is considered to be the standard when it comes to monitoring the progression of MS. However, some people with MS suffer symptoms and setbacks with no noticeable changes in subsequent MRIs. Because MS is such a fluid condition, MRI is not always sensitive enough to detect smaller changes or to predict where changes may occur in the future.
Although MRIs are still necessary for proper diagnosis and effective treatment of MS, another testing may be performed in conjunction with MRI to detect more subtle changes, to predict oncoming attacks of symptoms.
A special test involving cerebrospinal fluid can help physicians monitor disease activity and the progression of MS even in patients who do not show any notable changes in MRI scans. The biomarker called Fetuin-A is elevated in those with increased MS disease activity. This may better help doctors to add or change medications for MS patients who are exhibiting worsening symptoms before any damage can be detected with an MRI.
There is another test that involves a scan of the retina, called optical coherence tomography or OCT. OCT is a non-invasive imaging technique that can show changes in nerves located within the eye. Because MS is a progressive disease that involves nerve damage, obtaining regular OCT scans can show physicians when nerve damage is increasing in the retina. This may correlate with potential nerve damage occurring in other areas of the body that are not as easily detectable.