Multiple Sclerosis: When to Call in the MS Specialist - dummies

Multiple Sclerosis: When to Call in the MS Specialist

By Rosalind Kalb, Barbara Giesser, Kathleen Costello

If no multiple sclerosis (MS) specialist is available in your insurance plan or in your geographic area, you may be relying on your family doctor or a general neurologist for your routine care. However, sometimes you do need to contact a specialist.

Here are some of the times when you may want to connect with a specialist:

  • When you need to know your options: Several treatment options are now available for MS, so if the doctor you’re currently seeing is only comfortable prescribing one or two of these medications, consulting with someone — at least initially — about what all your options are may be worth your while.

  • When your doctor doesn’t have MS experience: If the doctor you’re currently seeing has had limited experience with MS, scheduling a yearly appointment with a specialist is a good idea — even if you have to travel or pay out-of-pocket to do so. This yearly appointment ensures that you’re getting the most up-to-date information.

  • MS specialists are used to providing these kinds of consultations to people from all over the world, and they’ll happily write a letter to your own doctor to convey findings and recommendations. If you’re seeing a physician who makes you feel uncomfortable about going to see a specialist, you may want to consider working with another physician.

  • When your MS acts up and interferes with your life: Because everyone’s MS is so different, very little about MS care is “routine.” If your MS progresses significantly in spite of treatment, your symptoms begin interfering in a major way with your everyday activities, or you’re having troublesome side effects with your medications, a consultation with a specialist may be worth your while. They’ve seen so many people with MS that they’re more likely to have seen a patient whose situation is similar to yours than a doctor who has seen very few MS patients.

  • When your doctor doesn’t routinely involve other specialties in your care: In this case, a consultation with a specialist will help you identify ways in which nursing, rehabilitation, social work, mental health professionals, and many others may be of assistance to you.

Your doctor has an important MS resource that he or she may not even know about. The National MS Society offers an MD-on-Call service that allows any physician to obtain a free consultation from an MS specialist on the Society’s National Clinical Advisory Board.

All your physician needs to do is send an e-mail to Your physician can also request a literature search, articles from the Society’s medical library, resources to assist with insurance appeal letters and Social Security Disability application, and guidance on how to set up an MS specialty center.

If you think it may be difficult or uncomfortable to suggest this resource to your doctor, you can get a brochure describing the service for your doc by calling (800) FIGHT-MS (800-344-4867). You can then offer it to your doctor in case he or she hasn’t heard about it.