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Diagnosis of multiple sclerosis can be a lengthy process

For some disabilities, early diagnosis can profoundly impact the course and predicted success of treatments. Yet not every disability is easily diagnosed.

Multiple sclerosis is one such example. The condition is classified as an immune-mediated disease because it attacks the body's own tissues in the central nervous system. Specifically, the disease attacks the fatty insulation of nerve fibers, called myelin, resulting in disrupted nerve signals and impaired motor coordination. Certain individuals may be more genetically susceptible to the disease, which may be triggered by environmental factors that might include viral infections, sex hormones, and perhaps even vitamin D deficiency. 

Despite the frustrations that can accompany an uncertain diagnosis, many patients often go through periods of waiting. The disease cannot be diagnosed by a single test. Instead, doctors generally use a combination of tests, arriving at a diagnosis after ruling out the possibility of other conditions. Magnetic imaging, blood tests, and a spinal tap can rule out other inflammatory diseases and autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or type 1 diabetes.

Unfortunately, a delayed diagnosis may also present difficulties for individuals seeking Social Security disability insurance benefits. Although Social Security Administration officials generally require substantial supporting evidence, a diagnosis is often the starting point. Without that, an SSDI applicant may have difficulty proving that his or her health is preventing him from working.

Yet an attorney knows that SSA officials may not be doctors, and that legal and medical definitions may not always overlap. Consequently, a disability benefits attorney might have strategies to suggest for demonstrating functional impairment, even absent a definitive diagnosis.

Source: chicagotribune.com, "Mayo Clinic Medical Edge: Spectrum of tests needed to diagnose multiple sclerosis," Orhun Kantarci, Nov. 27, 2013

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