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Neurologists and Specialists of MS

By Matt Cavallo

Recently we looked at the early signs and symptoms of MS. The question now becomes, “Who should I talk to about my signs and symptoms?” Let’s look at the different specialists that may be involved in the diagnosis and care of someone living with multiple sclerosis.
  • Primary Care Physician (PCP) is the primary point person in your care. This is your family doctor, who you will first talk to when experiencing signs and symptoms. PCPs are general practitioners who will not only help monitor and manage your condition, but will also refer you to specialists. Talk to your PCP about your MS signs and symptoms and ask for a referral to see a neurologist.
  • Neurologist is a physician that specializes in neurological disorders including MS, stroke, Parkinson’s, and ALS. Finding a neurologist who specializes in MS (aka an MS Specialist) will help ensure that you are up to date on all of the most recent treatments and data. A neurologist will diagnose, monitor, and treat your MS. Diagnosing MS is a long process and involves ruling out other conditions. To diagnose MS, your neurologist will conduct a neurological exam, which is a physical exam to determine nerve function; request MRI studies of your brain and/or spine; and conduct a spinal tap. If you are experiencing vision problems, there will be an eye exam, as well. In my case, I was diagnosed with transverse myelitis and probable MS. It wasn’t until my second exacerbation of optic neuritis that my diagnosis of MS was confirmed.

In my experience, the relationship with my neurologist has been my most important. However, my neurologist has referred me to other specialists to address other issues associated with MS. These include the tough to talk about issues like bladder and bowel, sexual dysfunction, and feelings. The following are a list of other medical professionals that work with MS patients.
  • Rehabilitation professionals are critical to living with MS. Physical therapists can help with mobility, walking, and moving around. They work on strength and range of motion. Occupational therapists are concerned with the activities of daily living. They can help with dressing, bathing, eating, toileting and transfers. Speech language pathologists work to assess, treat, diagnose, and prevent problems in the area of speech communication, cognitive communication and swallowing problems.
  • Urologist can help with bladder and bowel issues. There are some neuro-urologists that specialize in working with people living with neurological conditions like MS.
  • Neuro-ophthalmologists are doctors with a concentration in neurology and ophthalmology meaning that they are eye doctors, who treat optic neuritis and other visual conditions associated with neurological disorders.
  • Neuropsychologists are doctors who study the behavioral and cognitive effects of neurological disorders and how it relates to brain function.
  • Psychiatrists and psychologists are doctors who can help with any depression or other emotional disorders associated with MS. The critical difference between a psychiatrist and psychologist is that a psychiatrist is authorized to prescribe medicine, whereas a psychologist cannot.
  • Registered dieticians are trained professional who can help you formulate and maintain a special diet. While there are many diet books for MS, there is no proven MS diet. However, a healthy diet can help with fatigue, bladder and bowel and other MS symptoms.
  • Social workers are licensed professionals that can assist you in finding community resources, programs and entitlements. They are also trained in crisis intervention.

Many people rely on their primary care physician to manage their health and their neurologists to diagnose and treat their MS, but there are specialists that can help with the treatment, maintenance, and prevention of signs and symptoms of MS that can help you achieve the best possible outcomes despite living with multiple sclerosis.