Medical history

Taking a good medical history is vital to diagnosing MS. Your neurologist will ask many questions about present and past medical problems, as well as lifestyle, medicine use, and family history. Like a detective trying to solve a crime, your doctor will use what they learn to piece together what may be happening to cause your symptoms. Their ability to solve the case and come up with a diagnosis will depend on the accuracy of the information you provide.

The medical history will give your neurologist a subjective view of your life and health issues. Your neurologist will consider both subjective information from the medical history and objective information from the neurologic exam, in additional to any other tests chosen, to formulate an accurate diagnosis.

Your doctor will ask many questions in search of relevant information. Be as accurate and truthful as possible in answering the questions. It is helpful to bring with you, or arrange to have transferred, any and all medical records, including test results, from other physicians you have seen.

Questions You Can Expect During the Medical History

As part of medical history, your doctor will ask you about…
Example Questions
Symptoms
  • Can you describe your symptoms?
  • When did they start?
  • Are there any patterns of how they occur?
  • What factors affect your symptoms? (For instance, are they worse after meals, following exercise, at night or in the morning?)
Treatments already received
  • Have you already received treatments for your symptoms?
Diagnostic evaluations
  • Have you already had diagnostic evaluations for your problem?
Ongoing medical problems
  • What other health problems do you have? Are you currently receiving treatment for any problems?
Current medications
  • What medications (prescription and over-the-counter) are you currently taking?
Medication allergies
  • Are you allergic to any medications?
History of surgery
  • Have you ever had surgery?
History of trauma
  • Have you ever been injured in an accident or otherwise?
Family health history
  • Do members of your immediate family (parents, siblings, children) have any health problems?
  • Do members of your extended family (uncles, aunts, cousins) have any health problems?
  • Is there a history of MS in your immediate or extended family?
Diet and eating habits
  • What kinds of foods do you typically eat?
  • Do you have regular meals?
  • Are there any foods that you are allergic to?
Substance use
  • Do you have a history of substance use or abuse? (This includes alcohol and other drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamines)
  • If you drink alcohol, how many drinks do you have per week?
  • How often do you use recreational drugs?
Bowel and bladder habits
  • How often do you have bowel movements?
  • How often do you empty your bladder?
Sexual practices
  • How often do you have sex?
  • Do you have any problems with sexual performance?
Exposure to environmental hazards
  • Have you ever been exposed to a hazardous substance in the workplace or at home? (Examples might include arsenic, asbestos, mercury, lead)
Travel history
  • Have you ever traveled to an exotic destination?
Birthplace and places you have lived
  • Where were you born?
  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where have you lived during your adult years?
Written by: Jonathan Simmons | Last reviewed: May 2015.
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