My question is this: After many tests (Alzheimer's and dementia), the neurologist has said that MS is the cause of memory problems for a 63 year old man. Many say there's no way to really diagnose the difference of whether the memory loss is due to the MS or other causes, even with doing a spinal fluid. The reason I ask this question is because when he answers questions, he answers like it is two years ago... is there way to tell if MS is really causing his memory loss? Thank you.
The pattern of cognitive disturbance in MS does differ from other disease states such as Alzheimer and other dementias. As our age advances, it can be more difficult to tease them apart. The best way of doing so is to undergo neuropsychological testing. This is a comprehensive series of tests (usually paper/pencil but can also include computer tasks) that is administered in a controlled environment and interpreted by a neuropsychologist. These tests can last hours, and occasionally can be split up into consecutive days in order to minimize the effect of fatigue on the results. The neuropsychologist will compare the test-takers performance to those of similar age and background to ultimately come to an informed/educated conclusion regarding the cause of the cognitive dysfunction. These results can also help to craft a rehabilitative program (ie, for memory) that can be used to help the patient leverage their cognitive strengths to help compensate for any weaknesses. I'd recommend speaking with the neurologist about this, if not already done.
A. Scott Nielsen MD MMSc
Virginia Mason Multiple Sclerosis Center