The symptoms of multiple sclerosis (MS) can vary. People with MS symptoms that prevent them from working and doing other everyday tasks can often qualify for disability benefits and services.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition of the nerves and nervous system. Some people with the condition have mild symptoms and can continue work, attend school, and do other everyday activities.
However, MS can also cause severe symptoms that make it difficult for people to work or complete daily tasks. If your MS symptoms prevent you from working and performing other activities, you may qualify as having a disability.
The definition of disability depends on the agency you’re applying to or seeking services from. However, many agencies and healthcare professionals consider MS a disability.
The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) considers MS a disability if it’s severe enough to prevent you from working. Typically, this means symptoms of your MS keep you out of the workplace, such as difficulty:
- performing self-care
- completing tasks
The SSA will likely need documentation, such as medical testing, stating that MS is the cause of these symptoms. Other agencies will have their own rules and requirements, but if MS significantly impairs your ability to do daily tasks it may qualify as a disability.
The legal definition of disability also varies depending on the service or benefit you need. For instance, the SSA defines a disability as a condition that prevents a person from working that’s either fatal or that’s expected to last for at least 12 months.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a disability as any physical or mental impairment that meets any one of the following three requirements:
- limits one or more major life activities
- has limited one or more major life activities
- is perceived by others to limit one or more major life activities
Since MS symptoms vary by person, MS doesn’t always meet these definitions. For instance, MS isn’t a disability if your symptoms are mild and allow you to keep working. However, if your symptoms prevent you from working or doing other everyday activities, MS may meet the legal definition of disability.
If you think your rights have been violated or denied
If you have a legally recognized disability, you have the right to equal opportunity, access, and accommodation in:
- public transportation
- public accommodations and reasonable access to government buildings, businesses, and nonprofit service providers
- other access and rights
If you believe your rights have been violated or access has been denied to you because of your MS, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division has compiled a list of agencies and organizations that can help you.
The symptoms of MS can look different in each person and can change as MS progresses.
Common MS symptoms include:
- tingling in the hands, feet, and limbs
- numbness or weakness
- unsteady walking
- loss of ability to walk
- shock-like sensations after certain neck motions
- blurred vision
- double vision
- partial vision loss
- total vision loss
- eye pain
- chronic dizziness (vertigo)
- problems with bladder function
- problems with bowel function
- sexual difficulties
- cognitive difficulties
- mood changes
- slurred speech
MS isn’t typically fatal. With medications and other treatments available today, the life expectancy for people with MS is about 5 to 10 years lower than for people without MS. This gap has gotten smaller with time and is on track to continue to shrink.
You can learn more about MS by reading the answers to common questions.
What lifestyle changes can help if I have MS?
You can help manage the pain and other symptoms MS can cause by making some lifestyle changes at home. These include:
- staying active with low-impact exercise
- getting plenty of rest
- reducing stress
- following a healthy diet
- avoiding prolonged exposure to heat
- avoiding smoking and tobacco products
What are the complications of MS?
MS can lead to complications. These include:
- muscle spasms
- severe weakness
- loss of bladder or bowel function
- loss of sexual function
Is there a cure for MS?
Treatment can help minimize symptoms and slow down the progression of MS, but there’s no cure for the condition. MS is chronic, and people with the condition manage it throughout their lives.
MS is a chronic condition that affects the nervous system. Some people with MS have very mild symptoms, but other people have severe symptoms that prevent them from doing everyday activities. When having MS prevents activities such as the ability to work, it often meets the legal definition of “disability.” Qualifying MS as a disability allows people with MS to receive services from programs such as the SSA. If you have MS and are thinking about applying for disability services, ask a doctor for assistance.