Skip to Main Content

We have a new app!

Take the Access library with you wherever you go—easy access to books, videos, images, podcasts, personalized features, and more.

Download the Access App here: iOS and Android


Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune central nervous system (CNS) demyelinating disease characterized by inflammatory clinical relapses and gradual neurodegeneration. The etiology of MS is multifactorial and involves both genetic and environmental factors. MS diagnosis is made on clinical and imaging grounds. The basic paradigm was first introduced in the 1960s and is referred to as Schumacker’s1 criteria after its first author. Schumacker set out 6 criteria for the diagnosis of definite MS:

  • Age between 10 and 50 years

  • Presence of objective clinical signs

  • Lesions being predominantly in the white matter

  • Two or more lesions in the CNS separated in space

  • The attacks being separated in time

    • Episodes lasting more than 24 hours and spaced more than one month apart

    • Documented progression for more than 6 months.

  • The rule out of other pathologies

These have been revised (current criteria = McDonald Criteria—Table 43-1)2 with the advent of newer diagnostic modalities, but the paradigm remains the essence of MS diagnosis. The steps to diagnose MS are as follows:

  1. Take history, examine the patient, and document compatibility of the signs and symptoms with MS. Certain common presentations increase suspicion for the disease.

  2. Document the presence of white matter lesions, which are separated by time and space on imaging and clinical grounds.

  3. Rule out mimics of MS.

  4. Be aware of MS variants.3

Table 43-1.

2010 McDonald Criteria for the Diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis8

The goals of treatment are to reduce long-term disability and treat symptoms and exacerbations as follows:

  1. Institute disease-modifying medication.

  2. Treat exacerbations.

  3. Treat symptoms that arise from chronic changes caused by multiple exacerbations as well as progressive disease.

This chapter is organized around these themes:

  • Part 1 explores the diagnosis of MS.

  • Part 2 concentrates on mimic of MS.

  • Part 3 concentrates on treatment of exacerbations.

  • Part 4 outlines disease management.

  • Part 5 address MS and reproductive issues.

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.