Travelling with MS
MS is a lifelong condition that can cause a range of disabilities, both mild and serious.
It can affect the brain, spinal cord, vision and mobility – and is usually caused when the immune system attacks the material which protects the nerve fibres. As a result of this, the nervous system gets damaged, meaning the brain fails to send signals through the body in the same way it usually would.
Multiple sclerosis symptoms vary from person to person, but the some of the more common multiple sclerosis symptoms include chronic fatigue, blurred vision, numbness, stiffness, muscle spasms, lack of balance and even mental co-ordination difficulties.
Symptoms often gradually worsen over time, or can flare up in different phases. This all depends on the type of MS you have.
Types of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
There are four different types of multiple sclerosis in total: relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis (RRMS), secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), primary progressive multiple sclerosis (PPMS), and progressive relapsing multiple sclerosis (PRMS).
They are all described in accordance with how they affect the body over a period of time. Often starting with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, before developing into more progressive, yet rarer forms of the disease.
Although there are typical symptoms associated with each type – MS affects people in different ways, and each case is treated on an individual basis. The level of treatment required in terms of medication and supplements also varies depending on the type of MS the patient in question is being treated for.
Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis (RRMS)
This is the most common type of MS – with around 85% of people with the condition diagnosed as having RRMS.
Relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis symptoms attack in different phases (better known as relapses), before partially fading away or completely fading altogether. The relapses occur when the immune system attacks the myelin nerve protective covering, however there is no way of predicting the exact moment a relapse will happen.
It’s important to note that although each person experiences relapses differently – MS travel insurance usually always covers all bases as far as relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis is concerned. Therefore, you needn’t worry about incurring any extra medical costs should you experience a relapse while on your travels.
Secondary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (SPMS)
Secondary-progressive multiple sclerosis is the type of MS that progresses beyond RRMS. This is because the condition progresses from symptoms brought on as a result of relapses to more of an increased disability.
You don’t need to have been diagnosed with RRMS before you are diagnosed with SPMS, however. This is because the patterns and tell-tale signs of MS may not have been obvious until the symptoms of SPMS first surface.
This includes increased difficulty in terms of mobility as well as other enhanced symptoms that may have been prominent prior to diagnosis – although it’s still important to bear in mind that different people experience the effects of SPMS in different ways.
Primary-Progressive Multiple Sclerosis (PPMS)
Again, this type of MS is progressive in nature – meaning the symptoms get more and more debilitative over time, as opposed to being experienced through inflammatory relapses. As a result, diagnosis tends to be more common in people aged in their forties or even fifties – although again it’s important to stress that each case is treated on a person by person basis.
Primary-progressive multiple sclerosis is a rare form of the condition – with only 10-15% of those living with MS actually diagnosed with PPMS.
Long term neurological symptoms worsen over time, and walking difficulties can often be more severe as a result of PMSS.
Progressive-Relapsing MS (PRMS)
This is the least common type of MS – affecting only around 5% of total multiple sclerosis patients.
This is where symptoms such as muscle spasms, dizziness, urinary incontinence, and visionary disability have progressed even further, while spontaneous relapses can also occur – irrespective of the level of treatment the patient is on.
Other symptoms associated with progressive-relapsing multiple sclerosis specifically includes speech difficulties, hearing difficulties and tremors.
As PRMS symptoms worsen over time, it’s important to bear in mind that travel insurance policies need to be updated accordingly prior to travel. This is a precautionary measure that you should consider for all three of the progressive forms of the condition.
Can I Travel With MS?
Due to the often debilitative and progressive nature of MS, it is highly advised that you shop around for the right type of specialist travel insurance in order to give you peace of mind that any issues that could arise due to your condition are covered on your travels.
MS patients can still travel and enjoy themselves provided they have the right precautions in place to manage their condition while they are on the move. This includes having all the right medication and support required from other people/mobility aids.
If you suffer with MS and are considering booking a holiday – you may wish to consult your GP beforehand, just to get a second opinion.
They may well be best placed to advise you on what you should and shouldn’t do to ensure your trip is memorable for all the right reasons. It is also wise to inform your airline if they need to make any special considerations on your behalf in terms of individual assistance.
What Does MS Travel Insurance Cover?
In a standard medical travel insurance policy, you can expect a number of policy benefits – including personal accident, emergency medical expenses, and cancellation amongst others.
However, an MS travel insurance policy is specifically tailored to protect you from any MS-related illness costs throughout the duration of your holiday – and therefore the cover benefits will extend even further.
You can compare specialist quotes from up to 40 different providers to find a policy to suit you.
The first part of the process will be to declare your medical history. During this part of the process, you will need to answer specific questions. Questions will include whether your ability to look after yourself has worsened in the last 12 months, whether you have had any acute relapses in the past year, and also whether you use any particular mobility aids (some insurers may be able to cover the cost of your mobility aid should it be lost or damaged).
Can I Get Multiple Sclerosis Medication Insurance?
Treating MS can be expensive, so it’s important to ensure that if your personal medication is lost or misplaced while travelling – you have the necessary protection provided by your insurer of choice.
Supplements for multiple sclerosis are covered in your standard policy, once you have declared MS as a condition.
Obviously, the level of cover provided for this is tied to the severity of your condition and therefore the policy you ultimately should end up considering is dependent on the amount of medication you usually take as part of your daily routine for managing the condition.
In this article, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Dr. Barbara Giesser provide their tips for travelling with MS.