For many people, the word "disability" evokes images of people who use wheelchairs or canes. But here's the deal—this common perception of disabilities is severely limited. In fact, according to a recent survey, 74% of people with a disability don't use any device or aid that would serve as a visual signal that they have a disability.
Invisible disabilities can range from diabetes to fibromyalgia. Even though there are hundreds of disabilities that aren't noticeable, people with unseen disabilities are often left out of health and wellness discussions. But here's the good news: if you live with an invisible disability, your FSA funds might be able to help you deal with it.
We're not doctors, nor should any of the following be considered medical advice. But coming from our own experience, here are a few good ways your FSA can help you deal with these conditions.
If you have diabetes…
According to a recent report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. In other words, if you have diabetes, you're not alone. But because diabetes is considered an invisible disability, it might feel like you are since you can't always tell if someone else has diabetes.
If you have diabetes, you probably need to buy a lot of different supplies that range from glucose monitors to insulin, and even glucose tablets. The good news is that supplies for diabetes treatment are FSA-eligible.
Preventative care: Unfortunately, many people who have diabetes or prediabetes don't even know it. The most effective way to monitor your health and prevent diabetes is to regularly visit your doctor and get an annual wellness exam.
If you have fibromyalgia…
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disability and symptoms include widespread joint pain, nerve pain and fatigue. Most people who have fibromyalgia appear able-bodied. However, movement is usually painful and flare-ups can appear at any time.
Because there isn't a cure for fibromyalgia, the most important thing you can do is manage your symptoms. Symptoms and pain can vary, but they usually include joint, muscle and nerve pain. Because of that, FSA-eligible pain relief like heating pads, heat wraps and TENS units are often helpful for pain management.
Due to the large amount of symptoms and complex nature of fibromyalgia, it is a good idea to find a healthcare provider you trust and work together to find solutions that can help with the symptoms. Some of those solutions might include prescription medicine like antidepressants, pain medication or sleeping pills for insomnia.
Preventative care: Unfortunately, fibromyalgia is not preventable. People with fibromyalgia focus on preventing flare-ups by making sure they get adequate sleep (these products might be able to help) and regular exercise that isn't too extreme.
If you have epilepsy…
Nearly 3.4 million Americans live with epilepsy, and many more people will be diagnosed within their lifetime. Though the symptoms are often evident, it's not always the case. Like most invisible disabilities, it's impossible to tell if someone has epilepsy when you meet them.
For many people with epilepsy, the initial diagnosis can come as an upsetting shock because of the long-term implications about health and safety. But even though there isn't a cure, most people with epilepsy go on to lives that are both personally and professionally fulfilling.
If you have epilepsy, one of the most important things you can do is to diligently take your medication. If you struggle to remember to take your medication, a weekly pill organizer might be able to help. In addition to physical concerns about living with epilepsy, it's also important to take care of your mental well-being. This might mean joining a support group for people with epilepsy or working with a therapist.
Preventative care: For most epilepsy cases, there is not a clear cause. However, you can take some steps to help prevent seizures. Two of the most common suggestions are to make sure you get enough sleep at night and avoid alcohol and drug use.
Whether your disability is visible or invisible, it's important to prioritize your health. Regardless of what society might have you believe, every disability is valid and deserves attention, care and treatment.
Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.