Multiple Sclerosis

An early diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS) is critical in the management of your child's disease and quality of life. Research has shown that adults who receive an early diagnosis and begin prompt treatment experience fewer relapses and are less likely to develop disability.

To diagnosis MS, your child's doctor will conduct a thorough physical examination, asking about symptoms your child is experiencing, including when they started and how they've eased or progressed over time. Your child's doctor will record a full medical history, including information about your immediate and extended family's medical history.

A series of tests may be conducted, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Over the past two decades, the number of children and adolescents diagnosed with MS has risen significantly, due in part to the use of MRI in the diagnosis of the disease.

If it is suspected that your child has MS, he or she will have a MRI of the brain or spinal cord to look for lesions that may indicate MS. An MRI scan is a non-invasive procedure that uses powerful magnets and radio waves to construct clear, detailed pictures of brain and spinal cord tissues.

Other tests may be conducted to make a definite diagnosis and rule out other disorders that may mimic MS. These include:

  • Blood and urine tests to help rule out other possible disorders.
  • Evoked potentials test, which records electrical activity in the brain when nerves are stimulated (visual, brainstem or somatosensory evoked potentials).
  • Lumbar puncture or spinal tap to determine if there are abnormalities in the cerebrospinal fluid suggestive of inflammation — a sign of MS.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

Related Information

UCSF Clinics & Centers

Pediatric Brain Center

Multiple Sclerosis Center
1825 Fourth St., Fifth Floor, 5A
San Francisco, CA 94158
Phone: (415) 353-3939
Fax: (415) 353-3543
Appointment information

Patient Experiences