History of MS diagnosis
The earliest descriptions of MS date back to the middle ages, and journal entries preserved from the 18th and 19th centuries detail discrete episodes of pain, loss of vision or balance, and incontinence. Doctors in those times relied solely upon observation of the patient to diagnose a disease, and only after death, if an autopsy was performed, were the underlying causes of symptoms discovered. Still, MS was distinct enough in its manifestations to be comprehensively described by Jean-Martin Charcot in a series of lectures at the University of Paris in 1872-1873. Charcot is known as the father of neurology and produced many drawings from autopsies he performed. These illustrations gave the first real description of the physical changes that accompany MS.
The invention of the electron microscope early in the 20th century gave scientists a closer look at cells in the nervous system, and they began to define the activity of nerve cells using newly developed electrophysical techniques. Also, the advent of vaccination against viral diseases, particularly rabies, produced a small number of adverse reactions characterized by MS-like symptoms, leading to the still prevalent theory that there is a viral trigger for MS. The connection between immunity and the central nervous system was firmly established in 1947 by Dr. Elvin Kabat during the first research study funded by the National MS Society. Most recently, advances in imaging technology, primarily magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have helped doctors diagnose the disease earlier and with more certainty. Images of the brain have given investigators insight into the underlying progression of MS, providing the basic knowledge needed to effectively combat the disease.