How to Find a Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Neurologist

Finding a Healing Partner and Doctor in Your MS Journey

Senior neurologist
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Usually, people with multiple sclerosis (pre-diagnosis) get referred to a neurologist by their doctor because they are experiencing symptoms that lead another doctor to believe that they have a neurological disorder, such as multiple sclerosis (MS).

When a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis is made, patients often feel very emotional and committed to the doctor that helped them figure out what was wrong, as well as overwhelmed and confused.

However, this is the time to pause and think about what you want in a doctor. MS is a chronic illness, meaning you will have it for the rest of your life. You should select your neurologist carefully, as someone that will be your partner in keeping you healthy for a long, long time.

Know What You Want

Before you being your quest for a neurologist, first, take a few minutes to consider what kind of neurologist you want. Here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Specialization: There are doctors that specialize only in the treatment of MS, while other neurologists treat all neurological diseases and disorders, such as stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy. The MS specialists have seen many more patients with MS. In addition, the staff of MS Clinics may be able to answer many of your questions over the phone
  • Research: Neurologists in academic medical centers who also engage in research may be more up-to-date on the latest treatments, but may (not always) have less time for patient interaction.
  • Approach to Treatment: Some neurologists are very committed to one of the disease-modifying drugs, and will start virtually every new patient on that treatment. Others take many factors into account before making a recommendation, including side effects, administration methods, and the doctor’s own experience with the drugs in patients with a similar disease course and presentation.

Other Considerations

There are other things you may want to consider in your search for a neurologist including:

  • Integration: Are you looking for a doctor who integrates psychological, nutritional, complementary, and/or physical therapy and approaches into your care? Or are you willing to manage other types of care yourself?
  • Location: Are you willing to drive a bit further to see a particular doctor? Keep in mind that you may have to get to your doctor during a relapse or time of symptom worsening.

Reaching Out

Once you tease out some of the above thoughts regarding your ideal neurologist, it's time to begin your search.

Contact a Support Group

Support groups can be a great place for referrals. Once you know what you are looking for, you can talk to people at the support group, and they may be able to give you recommendations. This may be the best place to get an honest appraisal of the neurologists in your area.

Call Your Local MS Society

Your local chapter of the MS Society should have a listing for MS specialists in your area. Give them a call at 1-800-FIGHT-MS (1-800-344-4867) or go to their website to find your local chapter.

Search at the American Academy of Neurology

You can find lots of information at the American Academy of Neurology about the doctors in your area. Once you have a few names, search them to find out more about the doctors you are considering.

Search the Name in PubMed

PubMed is the National Library of Medicine’s database of medical research. Every article in almost every scientific medical journal is listed here. You can search a doctor’s name by typing in the last name and the first initial (no commas) and the words “multiple sclerosis.” This will tell you about the research studies that doctor has been involved with around MS.

Call the Drug Companies

Not all neurologists can prescribe all of the MS treatments. To make sure the doctor you are considering has experience in MS and in a variety of treatments, you can call the drug companies that make MS medications and ask for a list of prescribing doctors in your area. They may or may not give out the list, but it is worth a try.

Call Your Insurance Company

Once you have narrowed down the possibilities, you’ll want to call your insurance company to make sure they will cover your office visits and treatments. Make sure that your provider is “in network” to help save yourself money from extra charges.

Speak to the Receptionist

Unfortunately, it is usually impossible to interview your doctor before making an appointment, but you can speak with their receptionist. If you call at a slow time (early afternoon) the receptionist may have time to tell you a little bit about the doctor and his or her style. This may help you narrow down the possibilities further.

Interview the Doctor

Your first appointment with a new doctor is a time to interview the doctor and ask questions like:

  • How does the doctor like to be contacted if you need something or have questions
  • Is there a nurse on call?
  • How often does he want to see you?
  • Will he make a custom treatment plan for you?
  • Can he help coordinate your treatment with other specialists?
  • What does he think about complementary approaches?

Do not hesitate to ask your questions. Write them down before you go in and assert yourself to make sure they get answered. It's also sensible to bring a partner or family member with you to the appointment. This way you get a second opinion from your loved one about the "fit," and whether this could be a healing, compassionate partnership.

A Word From Verywell

Being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis can be an overwhelming time for you and your loved one, and finding a neurologist to help care for you is the first step in this long journey. Try to take it day by day and remember, you are not alone, and you can feel well again.

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