MS in the workplace

MS can cause a variety of symptoms that may affect your ability to work. These include problems with balance and coordination, speech problems, difficulty walking, vision changes, fatigue, weakness, and memory problems. MS symptoms vary a great deal between people, and even at different times in the same person. As a result, it is hard to say how MS will affect your ability to work. Some people with MS are able to continue working with hardly any disruptions; others have to adjust their work arrangements due to their symptoms; and a few find they are unable to work.

Figuring out whether to stay at your job is a personal decision. There are many factors to consider, including:

  • The nature of your condition: If you have a relapsing form of MS, it's important to take into account the fact that symptoms wax and wane. Some people decide to leave their jobs when they are going through an exacerbation, only to find that once they are in remission, they are able to return to work. If you think you might like to come back to work, consider applying for short-term disability or a medical leave rather than leaving your job altogether.
  • Options for workplace accommodations: If you are having difficulty doing your job, look for ways to modify your job responsibilities, hours, or environment. These are known as workplace accommodations. You have a legal right to reasonable accommodations. If your employer refuses your request for them, seek legal advice (for more information, see the "Working with MS" section of this health feature).
  • Your health insurance benefits: When weighing the benefits and risks of leaving your job, consider your drug and disability coverage. If you quit and decide to come back to work later, you may no longer be eligible for insurance (most plans don't cover pre-existing medical conditions, including MS). Check with your employer to be sure.

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