Medical History

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board

Taking a good medical history is the backbone of diagnosing MS. During the medical history, your doctor will ask you a lot of questions. Like putting together a jigsaw puzzle, they will then use what you tell them to piece together what may be causing your symptoms. Their ability to find the right diagnosis will greatly depend on the accuracy of the information you provide.1-3

Your doctor will want to know about your current health and any issues you have had in the past. Questions may address:1-3

  • Present and past medical problems
  • Lifestyle
  • Medicine use
  • Family history

This information will help your doctor understand your life and how your health has affected you. Your doctor will look at your medical history, the results of your brain and nerve (neurological) exam, and any other tests you have been given to make a diagnosis.1-3

Questions you can expect during the medical history with MS

Be ready to describe your complete medical history in detail and as accurately as possible. Doing this is not always easy. Come prepared with a list of the medicines and supplements you take as well as notes from other doctor appointments. It may help to bring a friend or family member who can fill in the gaps in your knowledge.1-3

Specific questions your doctor might ask include:1,2

  • Where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Can you describe your symptoms?
  • When did your symptoms start?
  • Are there any patterns of how your attacks occur?
  • Does anything make your symptoms better or worse?
  • Have you received tests or treatment for your symptoms?
  • What other health problems do you have?
  • Do you use any prescription, over-the-counter, or recreational drugs?
  • What conditions or illnesses run in your family?
  • Have you ever been injured in an accident?
  • What surgeries have you had in the past?
  • What foods do you typically eat? Do you have any allergies?
  • If you drink, how many drinks do you have per week?
  • Do you smoke? If so, how much?
  • How is your sleep?
  • What is your stress level?
  • Have you been exposed to any toxic chemicals at home or work?

They may also ask about your work, hobbies, and exercise habits.1,2

Review of systems (ROS)

In addition, your doctor will ask you questions that are more specific to organ systems in your body. This is called a review of systems (ROS). To start, they might ask you general health questions like:4

  • Do you have any fever, chills, or sweats?
  • Have you recently lost or gained weight without trying?
  • How is your energy level during the day?
  • Do you have chronic pain?

Specific questions then will be focused on organs, like your:4

  • Heart and lungs – Do you have a cough or chest pain?
  • Gut – How often do you have a bowel movement?
  • Urinary system – How often do you empty your bladder?
  • Skin and hair – Do you notice any changes in your skin or rashes on your body?
  • Eyes – Do you have any problems seeing?
  • Reproductive system and hormones – Are you having any sexual problems?
  • Muscles, bones, and joints – Are you having problems walking, or do you have joint pain?

To diagnose MS, your doctor needs to take your medical history and do a complete physical exam. They will also need to look at your nervous system and check your reflexes. Do your best to come prepared for these exams to help your doctor get the proper diagnosis.3

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