Underwriting Multiple Sclerosis: What You Need To Know
Multiple Sclerosis: A disease of the autoimmune system, which affects the bodys own immunities resulting in an attack on its nerves.
Given that this disease affects about 500,000 people in the United States and more than 2,000,000 worldwide, it is possible that a few of your clients may have it. If so, how do you approach the case? Well consider some strategies here. But first, here is a primer on what multiple sclerosis entails.
MS, as the disease is often called, is one of the most common causes of neurological disabilities occurring in early to middle adulthood and then declining thereafter. It is twice as common in females as in males and its occurrence is higher in whites than in any other racial group.
The disease causes degeneration in the “myelin,” which is a type of sheathing that insulates the nerves. This degeneration process is termed “demyelination.” What happens is, the myelin surrounding the nerves becomes plaque bound, or “sclerotic,” in different areas of the nervous system. When this happens, the nerves are disrupted.
Depending on the degree of demyelination, the affected nerves may become unable to transmit electrical impulses to and from the spinal cord and to the brain in a normal fashion. The breakdown of these impulses or messages is what causes the symptoms of MSwhich vary by individual, but which may include numbness, visual and/or speech difficulties, reduced bowel or bladder control, and muscle weakness, among other things.
The cause is unknown. Some have suggested that viral infection, such as the measles or herpes, may be associated with the condition. Others suggest that genetic makeup or even the environment may play a role. Studies show that MS is more common in certain parts of the world. Therefore, some posit that exposure to some sort of environmental influence, possibly before puberty, may predispose a person to MS.
You need to know that diagnosis is difficult. No one test single-handedly leads to rapid detection. However, CT scans, MRIs and studies of the cerebrospinal fluid all contribute to the evaluation. For instance, the CT scan and MRI help clinicians detect the sclerotic plaque, giving rise to possible presence of the disease. Identification of symptoms, such as those noted above, help as well. But the disease pattern is highly variable and can consist of remission, exacerbations, and from slow to rapid progression, so it often takes a while for medical professionals to reach a solid diagnosis.
Although there is no effective “cure,” a number of drugs currently exist that have proven beneficial in disease management. Steroids, such as prednisone, and chemotherapy agents, such as interferon, have proved to suppress the effects of the bodys immune system and shorten the length and severity of an attack in many individuals with MS.