Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic neurological disease affecting the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Canada has among the highest rates of multiple sclerosis, with roughly one in every 385 Canadians suffering from MS.
Multiple sclerosis is typically diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 49, and the average onset of the disease is 30 years-of-age. Woman are far more likely to suffer from MS than men, and MS more often affects persons of a Northern European ethnicity. Disturbingly, the incidence of MS in Canadian woman has significantly increased in the past century – the reasons for this are unknown but some researchers believe there’s an environmental cause or an environmental factor that interacts with genes. And, although researchers don’t know the exact cause of MS, they are hopeful they will soon find answers and ways to prevent this disabling condition.
MS is a physical disease that ultimately has physical, emotional and cognitive affects
Multiple sclerosis is believed to be an autoimmune disease, which is characterized when the immune system attacks body tissue rather than intruders such as bacteria, which it is intended to attack. MS targets myelin, which is the protective covering of the nerves and is needed in the transmission of nerve impulses. MS causes inflammation and often damages the myelin, and if myelin is substantially damaged and is replaced by scar tissue, nerve impulses can be entirely disrupted and the nerve fibres may be irreversibly damaged. And, when this happens, the body is prevented from receiving instructions to perform basic functions, such as walking, sight, speech and learning.
The effects of MS can be inconsistent and can vary over time. Some of the common symptoms include:
- Lack of coordination and difficulty walking
- Extreme fatigue
- Impaired sensation and tingling
- Cognitive impairment
- Vision problems
- Bladder problems
- Depression and mood changes
- Pain – about half of MS sufferers experience MS-related pain at some point during illness
Additional symptoms that affect some MS sufferer are:
- Sexual dysfunction
- Difficulty speaking
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Hormonal problems (affecting women)
- Inappropriate Affect and Emotional disorders
- Bipolar affective disorder
The onset of MS often occurs slowly and symptoms may not immediately appear. Persons who may be suffering from MS should be referred to a neurologist for a diagnosis. An MRI scan is often used to help diagnose this condition, and may indicate if there is tissue damage in the brain. Multiple sclerosis is not fatal and persons with MS generally live a normal or close-to-normal lifespan.
Some persons suffering from MS have symptoms that are not disabling. However, many persons with MS become disabled at some point in their illness, and about 60 percent are unable to walk 20 years after the onset of the disease. It’s not difficult to imagine that persons with serious MS symptoms have significant impairment in their ability to function normally and are often unable to perform any meaningful work.
Once multiple sclerosis symptoms prevent you from performing the essential tasks of your job, you may be eligible to receive long-term disability benefits under your insurance disability plan (if you have coverage through your employer or an individual plan) or through the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). Note that, to qualify for CPP disability benefits, you must be able to show that your MS symptoms are severe and prolonged, and you must also meet CPP criteria for having worked in the past 4 out of 6 years. And, as with any application process for disability benefits, you need to have been undergoing regular treatment with a doctor for your condition. Also, your doctor must be supportive of your claim, in terms of providing convincing medical evidence of how your condition prevents you from performing the essential functions of your job.
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Disclaimer: This article is intended to supply general information to the public. We make every effort to ensure the accuracy of this information. However, as laws change quickly, the reader should always ensure the accuracy and applicability of such information with respect to their particular case. The information contained in this article cannot replace a thorough and complete review of the reader’s situation by competent legal counsel who has had an opportunity to review all of the facts.