March 1, 2004
WIS News 10
Dara Jones, 40, has multiple sclerosis. For seven years, however, she didn't know what was causing her numbness, fatigue and vision loss, and doctors didn't know either.
She says she was, "Always being given things to calm you down. 'Here's a Valium. Here's a Xanax.' You're just stressed out all the time."
When Jones agreed to an MRI, the seven-year mystery was solved, "And right then, boom, they knew. By accident they knew."
The MRI gave Doctor Norman Kachuk, a neurologist at the University of Southern California, a view inside Dara's brain. He can see white lesions, damaged areas caused by MS. Those lesions combined with a patient's symptoms can help doctors diagnose MS as soon as a patient has her first attack.
Until now it took numerous clinical tests and two flare-ups of symptoms at least one month apart to diagnose MS. Dr. Kachuk says MRIs now significantly reduce the time it takes to get that diagnosis, "If we can intervene in this disease at its earliest stage, medicines we have presently will work far more efficiently."
MRIs may also give patients a clue to where their disease is headed. Studies show the more lesions found initially, the faster the disease may progress. With exercise, the right diet and medication Dara says she feels better than she has in ten years, "If I hadn't gone in there that day, who knows when I would have been diagnosed."
MRI scans are also allowing researchers a faster way to test new drugs
for MS. Because the disease progresses slowly and is often silent, the
benefits of a new treatment can often be seen on an MRI before they can
be felt by a patient.
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