Multiple sclerosis (MS)
As a leader in multiple sclerosis (MS) research, Duke’s physicians are paving the way for more effective treatments that can target the underlying genetic causes of this debilitating disease. While there is no cure for MS, our in-depth understanding of how the disease starts and progresses means we can provide you with more accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plans - today and in the future.
Forefront of multiple sclerosis care and research
Multiple sclerosis is not easy to diagnose. If you have MS, your symptoms may come and go, possibly for months at a time, and may be mild or easily confused with other conditions. Because there is no one test that can confirm if you have MS, our doctors follow a careful, strategic evaluation that involves detailed examinations, MRIs, and blood and spinal fluid analyses.
Once we confirm your diagnosis, we develop a plan to manage your symptoms using a personalized combination of medication and therapy services. Because we are at the forefront of MS research, our scientists influence how we diagnose and treat your condition.
Choose Duke for your MS care because we offer:
- Breakthrough MS research. We are one of three hospitals forming the Multiple Sclerosis Genetics Group, the most comprehensive genetic study ever done for MS. Through this partnership, our researchers identified a cluster of genes believed to be largely responsible for the disorder - a significant finding that could lead to more effective treatments.
- Nationally ranked care. Our neurology department is one of the best in the country, and consistently ranks among the top neuroscience programs by U.S. News & World Report.
- Specialized therapy services. Our patients have access to comprehensive rehabilitation and therapy services at the Duke Raleigh Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Center. Staff members are specially trained to work one-on-one with neurology patients, including those with MS. They focus on maximizing your functional capabilities and independence.
- Aggressive treatment approach. We take what we describe as an aggressive approach to treating MS. That means we offer new medications and therapies as soon as they become available.
Medication plays an important role in managing MS. We prescribe two types:
- Disease-modifying medications. Slow down or change the natural progression of MS and are very effective at reducing flare-ups. They are typically daily pills or injections.
- High-dose corticosteroids. Treat severe attacks and reduce inflammation associated with them.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend physical, speech, cognitive, and occupational therapy. As an integral part of the Duke neurosciences center, the Duke Raleigh Hospital Outpatient Rehabilitation Center offers comprehensive services in these therapies, all with the goal of helping you stay independent.
A full range of alternative therapies including dietary supplements, exercise programs, biofeedback, and acupuncture are available at Duke Integrative Medicine.
There is no one test that can confirm you have multiple sclerosis. Our experts use the following strategies to determine if you meet the criteria for MS:
A thorough medical history is necessary to look for clues that tell us when your symptoms began.
A variety of tests to evaluate movement, coordination, balance, vision, and mental, emotional and language functions.
The best imaging test for detecting MS plaques. Though a diagnosis cannot be based on MRI alone, it may be used to confirm a diagnosis based on medical history and neurological exams.
Measure the nervous system’s electrical responses to different stimulation, and can help confirm a diagnosis.
May be used to rule out other conditions that have symptoms similar to MS.
Looks for heightened levels of antibodies and certain proteins in the spinal fluid that may help point to a diagnosis.