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THE IMPORTANCE OF SEEING AN MS SPECIALIST
Neurology is a huge field with hundreds of different diseases, each with their own variations. A general neurologist has to keep up on all the research on all these things. Thus, they have to know a some about thousands of topics. A true MS specialist deals just with MS, either after it is diagnosed or they may also be involved in guiding the work up to diagnose MS or rule it out. They understand it's variability and that it can present in weird ways. They know that sometimes it takes persistence to nail the diagnosis. If the diagnosis doesn't come readily they will make a plan to follow the patient on a regular basis. They also know the importance of early treatment with Disease Modifying Drugs.
For someone with MS, a good specialist will stay on top of a field that is constantly learning more about this disease. They will be more attuned to which symptoms are likely from MS and which need to be seen by someone else.
Now, any neurologist that sees a large number MS patients can "call" themselves an MS specialist. The National MS Society local chapters keep a list of MS specialists, and this is usually the first place to check. The problem is that the doctors, themselves, volunteer that they are specialists. My first neurologist was on the NMSS list and he made several bad decisions which delayed my diagnosis for years.
Another way to find a specialist is to attend an MS Support Group meeting. People will be very willing to recommend the doctors that are skilled, compassionate and knowledgeable, along with who to avoid. You can find meeting times and places for local support groups on the website of your local MS Society Chapter.
Recently I have been recommending that people seek out a neurologist affiliated with the (international) Consortium of Multiple Sclerosis Centers. This is an international group that was formed to consolidate all of the vast amount of research and experience and to develop recommendations and protocols for the diagnosis and treatment of MS. These people are up-to-date! My neuro heads an MS Clinic in the closest city to me, though he is about 40 miles away. The trip is well-worth it. He is associated also with specialized PT and a Uro-Gynecology Continence Clinic with 2 female super-specialists. He does a great deal of research. Here is the link for finding a Clinic that is a member of CMSC:
So, I would recommend that anyone facing MS or it's diagnosis seek out the best-trained and best doctor in the field they can arrange to see. It is that important. This isn't one of those diseases where you can "read up" on a few articles periodically and "wing it" with the patient. If seeing a specialist means a trip for you, I would recommend that you not let that keep you from seeing the best!
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