Understanding the MRI

The Painfree Life has been given express permission by Linda Cox (read her story HERE), former publisher of MS Relief to publish content from MS Relief so that it can be available to all MS Relief subscribers and anyone else who may benefit from this information.

When I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis I looked at the MRI results with the white spots but it meant nothing to me, it was like reading a foreign language.

I was waiting for more symptoms to prove that I have multiple sclerosis. It wasn’t until five years later that I learned symptoms are just the tip of the iceberg.

MS causes damage to the myelin, the protective coating of the nerves. This damage creates lesions or “scars” that can be seen on the brain and spinal cord in a process is called demyelination.

MS activity in the brain happens before the symptoms are being experienced and can be seen as white spots on the MRI images.

http://www.youtube.com/user/DrBarrySinger?feature=watch Dr. Barry Singer and http://mslivingwell.org/category/living-well-with-ms/ and MSlivingwell.org provided this video to explain the MRI.

MRI or magnetic resonance imaging is a way to see inside the brain and spinal column.  MRI scanners use strong magnetic fields and radio waves to form images of the body. The technique is widely used in hospitals for medical diagnosis, staging of disease and for follow-up without exposure to ionizing radiation.

MRI images can show old damage and new inflammation. The pictures that are taken of the brain include information on past and ongoing disease and possible prediction of the future.

5 key MRI changes can show

  1. T2 and flair lesions: standout at Bright Spots called Hyperintensities, ventricles or spinal fluid spaces, old damage and new inflammation, having T2 or flair lesions may be an increased risk for disability. Without MS usually no T2 spots are found in the brain until age 50. Other causes of white spots need to be considered also when  diagnosing MS.
  1. T1 with contrast lesions: MS lesions, bright with contrast when contrast is given in the vein, the contrast goes through your blood and seeps out of leaky blood vessels at sites with active MS inflammation. Typical MS lesions remain active for only one or two months. The spots may go away, or leave a flair scar.
  1. T1 black holes cells also known ‘T1Hypo-dense lesions:  These dark spots on T1 scans are damage on the myelin coating and the nerve, higher risk for physical disability
  1. Atrophy: As all of us age, our brain shrinks naturally, with MS the brain shrinks more quickly.
  1. Cortisol lesions: Cortex or surface of the brain contains the nerve cells and new MRI research techniques make these spots more visible.  Cortisol lesions are more common in progressive MS

Good News is medications prevent over 70% of new lesions from forming or existing lesions from becoming larger and flair or T2 images contrast T1 lesions can decrease more than 80% with treatment.  medications have been proven to slow down atrophy and prevent new T1 black holes.

MRI scans are the central tool to diagnose and monitor treatment options.  Significant changes are seen on the MRI, the doctor might consider a change in treatment. An unchanged MRI is one indicator that the MS is in check.

Also, exciting research is focusing on repairing the myelin heal the damage of multiple sclerosis. 

I wish I would have understood the MRI and gotten on medication when I was diagnosed.  Even though I didn’t, I’m grateful that my medication is keeping my MS under control.

 “The type of lesions we are describing are relatively new,” he said. “Called T1 hyperintense lesions, they look bright when you look at the image.” They are different than the lesions known as T2 hyperintense lesions, he said.


MS Symptoms: Vision Problems

More than half of people with MS experience a vision problem called optic neuritis. This inflammation of the optic nerve may cause blurred vision, loss of color vision, eye pain, or blindness, usually in one eye. The problem is usually temporary and tends to improve within a few weeks. In many cases, vision problems are the first sign of MS.

Stroke vs. MS

Confusion, slurred speech, and muscle weakness can be symptoms of MS, but they can also be signs of a stroke. Anyone who suddenly has trouble speaking or moving their limbs should be taken to the ER immediately. Treating a stroke within the first few hours provides the best odds of a successful recovery.

If there are lesions are on the brain stem vision blurriness or vision issues

attack on the cervical portion of the spinal cord numbness and weakness in the hands and legs