Vicky, no one here is a doctor and therefore you cannot get a diagnosis on line. All we can do is speculate, so be sure not to take my comments or those of anyone else as anything but speculation. All of this goes double for anything related to MS, because all of the symptoms of MS are seen in a very wide variety of other problems.
If you want to be checked out for MS, I suggest that you start by contacting your nearest MS Society chapter
and asking for a referral. You'll get the names of a few neurologists known to them, and it will probably take you a couple of months to get an appointment. This is how I've gotten my neuro referrals in Boston and lately Seattle, and I have been very satisfied. Even those who are dissatsfied with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society (I am not
one of them, by the way) will agree that the local chapters are usually excellent
Suggestions on the neuro appointment:
1. Arrive with a written list of symptoms. Make it concise
. It should fit quite comfortably on one sheet of paper. My MS symptom list runs for a half a page, consisting of bullet points.
2. Be as unemotional and as rational as possible. Doctors are scientifically trained from years on end. They respond most readily to the factual, measureable and provable. This makes MS a tough one, because it usually starts with sensory symptoms. An emotional patient reporting sensory symptoms runs the considerable risk of being dismissed as psychosomatic.
And that's more likely to happen to women than to men, although you must believe me when I tell you it happens to men as well. I once sat in the office of one of the top MS neurologists on the East Coast, unable to feel anything below my chest, and was told that I was imagining things.
3. Present yourself as looking for answers, but don't mention or suggest MS. If the neuro has been recommended by your local MS Society, you can rest assured that he or she will consider the possibility without your mentioning it. I say this because doctors really distrust "self-diagnosis."
4. The bottom line is that it's up to you to determine how confident you are in your doctor. If you think you're being blown off, then for God's sake find another doctor! But remember, you eventually have to believe someone. If three top neuros tell you that it's not MS, then it's probably not MS. In any case, once you've developed that confidence then be sure to listen
to what you are told.
And guess what? Sometimes they don't know what the problem is. Frustrating as that is, I think it's better to be told that they don't know than it is for them to just make something up! With MS, a lot of people will be told that the picture is ambiguous and that they should come back in six months. It's frustrating as hell, but if that's what you hear it's the truth so don't consider it a brush-off. Even with MRIs, mutliple sclerosis remains a difficult disease to diagnose.
5. Obtain copies of all your medical records, including doctor notes from visits, blood test results, x-rays and MRI films. Keep a medical file at home.
If the neurologist does suspect MS, the first step will be to get MRIs of your brain and cervical spine. Be sure that these MRIs are done in an enclosed MRI. Open MRIs don't yield good enough images. If you're claustrophobic, have them give you a sedative. Beyond that, be sure that they use a contrast agent, which is typically gadolinium.
If the MRIs show spots, you'll likely be asked to do evoked potentials (EVP) tesing and/or a spinal tap (also known as "lumbar puncture" or LP). EVP tests involve looking at shifting patterns to see if the nerve impulses from your eyes are getting to your brain quickly enough, and giving you small shocks on your arms and legs to see if the impulses are reaching your brain quickly enough.
An LP involves putting a hollow needle between your vertebrae and extracing about 15% of your spinal fluid, which is then checked for byproducts of myelin destruction and other diseases. An LP is uncomfortable but also bearable and routine. Think of a cavity being filled, and that's the typical level of discomfort. Here is a discussion of spinal taps
Here's a place where you can read the diagnostic criteria for MS
. Frankly, the symptoms you describe do not sound like MS to me. The predominance of pain suggests mechanical problems, although the "cramping sensation" sounds like the description of a spasm and painful spaticity is a pretty common MS symptom.
Bear in mind that very few MS diagnoses are rendered from symptoms alone (i.e., "clinical history"). MS usually takes quite a while to be diagnosed, so don't expect an instant verdict from anyone. Also, the Internet is a double-edged sword. It's a great source of information but it's a way to scare the hell our of yourself, and it tends to obscure the hard fact
that any diagnosis of anything must come from a doctor rather than someone on-line.
I truly wish you the best of luck in the search for answers. I've been in your shoes, and I know it's not easy. It is especially hard to have people tell you it's all in your head, caused by stress
, and treatable with herbs
or alternative medicine
. Some quacks
will even claim to have discovered a cure
for MS. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts. Hang in there!