Conditions that Can Qualify You for Disability Benefits
Census data shows that approximately 1 in 5 Americans live with a disability, or a total of about 57 million people. Among them, roughly 8.9 million disabled workers received $10 billion in 2013 through the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits program.
But while monthly SSA benefits are an indispensable lifeline for millions of disabled Americans, qualifying to receive aid can be a challenge. The disability benefits program is notorious for rejecting more applicants than it accepts, and many claims are denied because applicants’ disabilities fail to meet SSA requirements.
To help you determine if your disability can qualify you for monthly assistance, the New Jersey and Pennsylvania disability attorneys of Young, Marr & Associates have assembled this guide to how the SSA evaluates different conditions and illnesses. Simply click the link to your condition below to find out more about how your claim can be approved.
Cancer (Malignant Neoplastic Diseases)
The term malignant neoplasm refers to a cancerous tumor. Therefore, malignant neoplastic diseases refer to various forms of cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates that 1,665,540 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2014.
The two most common types of this cancer in the United States are squamous cell carcinoma and transitional cell carcinoma. White males are at an increased risk for developing bladder cancer.
While this type of cancer most often affects females, breast cancer can also develop in men. The National Cancer Institute reported about 230,000 new cases in women and approximately 2,300 new cases in men in the United States in 2014.
The esophagus is the tube which carries food from the mouth into the stomach. Symptoms can include weight loss, chest pain, persistent coughing, and difficulty swallowing.
In Hodgkin’s Disease (or lymphoma), cells in the lymphatic system grow abnormally and may spread beyond the lymphatic system. As the disease progresses, it compromises the body’s ability to fight infection. Symptoms include persistent fever, swollen (but painless) lymph nodes, fatigue, weight loss, and itching.
Can affect the small or large intestine (colon cancer). Signs and symptoms can include fatigue, weight loss, persistent abdominal pain, and rectal bleeding.
Leukemia is a blood cancer which originates in the bone marrow’s white blood cells. Some forms tend to affect children, while others typically affect adults. Common symptoms include recurring nosebleeds, red spots on the skin, severe or recurring infections, quickness to bruise or bleed, and weight loss. See also: bone marrow transplant.
Also referred to as pulmonary carcinoma. Symptoms are not necessarily limited to the lungs and chest, and may include fatigue, bone fractures, memory loss, and facial swelling. Pulmonary symptoms include coughing (which may produce blood or mucus) shortness of breath, and chest pain. See also: lung transplant.
Multiple myeloma occurs when plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cell that grow inside bone marrow, reproduce without stopping. This can damage the kidneys and the immune system, and can also raise the number of In most patients, myeloma is found in more than one location, and is therefore called multiple myeloma.
The pancreas helps to regulate metabolism, and produces enzymes which aid digestion. Unfortunately, cancer of the pancreas (pancreatic carcinoma) often goes undetected because symptoms don’t generally appear until the cancer has reached an advanced stage. Signs and symptoms may include blood clots, weight loss, jaundice, and upper abdominal pain.
Prostate cancer affects men exclusively, and is the most prevalent type after skin cancer. In 2014, the National Cancer Institute reported approximately 233,000 new cases. See also: incontinence, liver disease, kidney disease.
Sarcoma is an umbrella term which covers cancers originating in the connective tissue (soft tissue sarcoma) and bones (bone sarcoma). Sarcomas are somewhat rare compared to other types of cancer like carcinoma (which originate in the epithelial cells, or skin cells).
Skin cancer can be caused by UV (Ultra Violet) light from natural sources (i.e. the sun) or artificial sources such as tanning beds. A weakened immune system can also contribute. The three most common types of skin cancer are melanoma, basal cell, and squamous cell.
About 8,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. Signs and symptoms may include testicular lumps, stomach pain, shortness of breath, and lower back pain. As of 2011, over 95% of all cases were curable. Nonetheless, testicular cancer can still have debilitating effects.
Thyroid cancer begins in the thyroid gland, which is a butterfly-shaped gland located inside the neck. Women are much more likely to develop thyroid cancer than men, with signs and symptoms including trouble swallowing, pain and swelling in the neck, and difficulty breathing.
The cardiovascular system is sometimes referred to as the circulatory system. These conditions can affect arteries, veins, capillaries, and lymphatic functions.
Cardiovascular disease can be caused by many factors, such as advanced age or having a family history. Males are at a higher risk than females. Heart disease may be ischemic or congenital, or there may be chronic heart failure or recurrent arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat). The Heart Foundation estimates that approximately 80 million Americans have some form of heart disease. See also: heart transplant, hypertensive cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease (PAD).
Following a heart transplant, patients typically require several weeks of inpatient care followed by several months of monitoring, and must keep their activity level low while the body adjusts. The body may try to reject the new heart, which can cause problems like fever and shortness of breath. Transplantation and the associated drugs also increase the risk of cancer and infection. See also: obesity, heart disease, cancer.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and it contributes to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) and the development of heart failure. Stress plays an important role in contributing to hypertension.
This is the term for heart disease caused by high blood pressure. See also: hypertension.
Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)
PAD occurs when plaque, which is made of fat, cholesterol, and other tissue, accumulates in the arteries. This blocks normal blood flow, which in turn can lead to pain, numbness, increased risk of infection, gangrene, and even the need for amputation in extreme cases. See also: heart disease.
Many disability claimants are teenagers, children, toddlers, and even infants. What are some of the common medical conditions affecting this age group which can be eligible for benefits?
These are disorders which can affect children’s immune systems. Conditions in this category include inflammatory arthritis, connective tissue disease, and Sjogren’s Syndrome. Asthma is another common immune deficiency, though the Social Security Administration also evaluates asthma under respiratory disorders.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that approximately one in five children have a psychiatric illness. The leading disorders in this category are ADHD, mood disorders, and major depression. These conditions can interfere with a child or teenager’s ability to focus, learn, think clearly, and interact with others.
Respiratory disease among young people is a major problem in the United States, accounting for millions of hospitalizations on a yearly basis. These conditions can affect the lungs, trachea, and diaphragm, and can cause difficulty breathing. See also: asthma (which is also an immune disorder), cystic fibrosis, chronic pulmonary insufficiency.
Growth impairment is often an indicator of another medical condition. Common causes include diabetes, achondroplasia, hypothyroidism, malnutrition, and lung, heart, and kidney disease. While generally a side effect of other conditions, impaired growth can be disabling on its own. Growth impairment is only contained on the SSA’s childhood listings, not the adult listings.
This refers to disorders which are present at or before birth. These conditions can be caused by factors like infections, genetic abnormalities, and chromosomal abnormalities.
There are two subcategories of Down Syndrome, often called Downs Syndrome: non-mosaic (chromosome 21 trisomy or chromosome 21 translocation), and mosaic. Non-mosaic is typically more severe, and is also far more common, accounting for approximately 98% of all cases. However, in some instances the mosaic form may also have disabling effects.
These disorders can affect the stomach, liver, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, or esophagus. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that digestive conditions affect approximately 60 to 70 million people.
This is an inflammatory bowel disorder characterized by inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract, ulcerations that hinder nutrient absorption, severe diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, weight loss, and other symptoms in varying degrees. Crohn’s is a lifelong condition which requires surgery in approximately 75% of all cases.
Typical symptoms of IBS include diarrhea, constipation, mucus in the stool, and abdominal pain. IBS is one of the most common gastrointestinal disorders in the world. Approximately 30% of cases are moderate to severe. See also: Crohn’s Disease.
The liver plays many roles in the body, including processing the blood, storing and releasing glucose, and producing and regulating substances like bile, protein, and cholesterol. Liver disease can result in fatigue, weight loss, vomiting, nausea, and jaundice. See also: diabetes, obesity, liver transplant, prostate cancer, anemia.
Transplantation may be used as a last resort when liver failure has reached an advanced stage. If the body rejects the new liver, side effects may include fever, pain, swelling, chills, and nausea. After a transplant, patients are restricted from driving from two to three months, and are restricted from vigorous activity for six to 12 months. See also: cystic fibrosis, liver disease.
This condition can be either chronic (long-term) or acute (short-term attacks). Patients frequently experience constant pain in the upper abdomen which radiates to the back. In some patients, this pain may be disabling. Other symptoms can include fever, nausea and vomiting, and an accelerated heartbeat.
Typically occurring in the pelvis, peritonitis is the inflammation and infection of the peritoneum, the membrane lining the abdomen in the pelvic area. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and abdominal pain.
The endocrine system is made up many different hormone-secreting glands. These hormones are secreted into the circulatory (cardiovascular) system, which means disorders of these two systems may affect each other. Endocrine system glands include the pituitary and pineal glands, the thyroid and parathyroid, the ovaries and testes, and the adrenal glands.
Diabetes can be classified as either Type 1 or Type 2. Type 1 occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Type 2 occurs when the body’s blood glucose or sugar levels become too high. While Type 2 is far more common, both can have debilitating effects. See also: neuropathy, kidney (renal) disease, vision loss, macular degeneration, obesity.
Macular Edema / Degeneration
Typically associated with diabetes, this condition occurs when blood vessels in the eye start to leak fluid, allowing fluid to build up in the macula. This fluid causes the macula to swell and thicken, leading to blurred and distorted vision. The eye cannot expel the excess fluid, and the condition will become worse over time if it is not treated.
Hematological (Blood Diseases)
Hematological disorders refer to conditions which affect the blood. These conditions can affect the white blood cells and red blood cells, and can lead to other complications throughout the body.
Bone Marrow Transplant
A bone marrow transplant may cause chest pains, low blood pressure, headaches, nausea, and shortness of breath. Other potential complications include anemia, internal bleeding, blood clots, organ damage, and cataracts. See also: sickle cell anemia, leukemia, cancer.
Affecting an estimated 3 million Americans, anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells, which creates an iron deficiency. Anemia can cause weakness, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, and chest pain. See also: bone marrow transplant, endocrine disorders, sickle cell anemia, liver disease.
“Myelo” refers to the bone marrow or spinal cord, while “fibrosis” means that connective tissue is scarring and becoming thicker. Myelofibrosis is a disorder where the bone marrow scars, which disrupts blood cell production and causes symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and anemia. While myelofibrosis is a form of leukemia, the SSA evaluates it as a blood condition.
Sickle Cell Disease
This disease takes its name from the “sickle” shape it creates in red blood cells, which should be round to allow for easy passage through the blood vessels. However, due to their abnormal shape, sickle cells pile up in clumps. This can lead to a host of complications, including acute chest pain, fever and difficulty breathing, pulmonary hypertension, organ damage, blindness, skin ulcers, and gallstones. People of African or Hispanic descent are at an increased risk. See also: bone marrow transplant.
This body system, also known as the urogenital system, includes both the reproductive organs and the urinary system (kidneys, bladder, urethra, and ureters).
The two most common types of urinary incontinence are urgency incontinence and stress incontinence. For people with stress incontinence (coughing, sneezing, running or heavy lifting causes urine to leak) treatment options may involve lifestyle changes, including certain exercises and surgery. Prescription medicines that may work for urgency incontinence symptoms do not treat stress incontinence symptoms. See also: prostate cancer.
Kidney Disease (Renal Disease)
The kidneys are responsible for removing waste products from the blood, so when renal function is impaired, the results can be debilitating and may even require dialysis or transplantation. See also: bladder cancer, diabetes, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, nephrotic syndrome.
Nephrotic syndrome occurs when damage to the kidneys results in excessive protein discharge in the urine. Symptoms can include foamy urine, weight gain, and swelling (edema), particularly around the face, eyes, extremities, and stomach. See also: kidney disease, cancer, immune system disorders.
The immune system is the body’s primary defense against illness and infection. When immune functions are disrupted by a medical condition, it can become extremely easy to become sick or injured. People with these conditions often experience weakness and fatigue.
While often lumped together, these are separate conditions, with HIV progressing into AIDS over time. Stage 1 and Stage 2 are considered HIV, while Stage 3 is considered AIDS. These stages are differentiated based on the number of CD4+ cells (T-cells) which are present in the body. T-cells are white blood cells which help the immune system fight off infections. Symptoms of HIV and AIDS can include weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, and oral or skin lesions. See also: skin cancer.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)
The most common symptoms are continuing and recurring fatigue that is not relieved by sleep or bed rest. CFS has also been linked to a weakened immune system, and people who suffer from this disorder are more susceptible to infections and illnesses.
Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)
Also known as human herpesvirus 4, EBV infects virtually everyone at some point in life: an estimated 90% of all American adults will have it by the time they reach 40 years old, many of whom never experience symptoms. But in some people, EBV can become a serious health concern. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.
Unlike other types of arthritis which are evaluated primarily as musculoskeletal conditions, inflammatory arthritis is listed as an immune disorder. Symptoms include swelling and stiffness in the joints, tenderness, rash, fatigue, and pain. See also: arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
There are actually four different types of lupus, but the most common and serious form is called Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). While there is no single cause, heredity may be a risk factor. Symptoms may include pain and stiffness in the joints, fatigue, weight loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and the butterfly-shaped “butterfly rash” over the cheeks and nose.
This condition occurs when a person is bitten by a tick infected with Borrelia bacteria. Without early intervention, Lyme Disease can cause symptoms like fever, severe headache and stiff neck, heart irregularities, temporary paralysis of facial muscles, pain with numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, loss of concentration or memory problems, and, most commonly, Lyme arthritis.
While many qualifying conditions are caused by diseases and disorders, physical trauma can also result in severe disability.
If you suffer from severe and constant pain, you know that it is more than just physical: it can affect your ability to function at work, as well as impact your psychological state. Many people with chronic pain are or become limited in their ability to participate in daily activities. This loss of independence can result in depression and anxiety, while the pain itself can keep sufferers out of work.
Disability benefits for paralysis depend on the area of your body that is paralyzed, and how it affects your daily functions. Depending on its cause, paralysis can be limited to a localized part of the body (e.g. Klumpke paralysis, where an injury paralyzes the hand, wrist, and fingers), the lower half and sometimes middle portion of the body (paraplegia), or the entire body from the neck down (quadriplegia/tetraplegia). See also: cerebral palsy, spinal stenosis, Lyme Disease, multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy.
While back pain is often caused by a disease or disorder, many different physical injuries can also result in severe and long-lasting back pain. Some common examples of physical causes include car accidents and sports injuries, or even over-exertion from lifting heavy objects. See also: chronic pain.
While hip replacements are often associated with the elderly, they may also be required in middle-aged or young people who have suffered serious injuries. Even if a surgery is successful, artificial hips can later become dislocated, or the body can have a negative reaction. See also: chronic pain.
Also referred to as a “slipped” or “ruptured” disc, this occurs when one of the discs between the vertebrae of the spinal column develops a weak spot. When this happens, the disc (sometimes spelled disk) can rupture, which allows the disc’s soft internal contents to spill and squeeze out. This can cause pain and numbness, and may require surgery in severe cases.
Also referred to as psychiatric illnesses, these conditions can affect mood, personality, thought processes, and social behavior. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates approximately 57.7 million Americans experience some form of mental disorder. Not to be confused with neurological disorders.
Anxiety can be general, or can involve social anxiety, panic disorder, or extreme phobias which interfere with daily life. Anxiety attacks are debilitating physical events in which sufferers experience shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, and heart palpitations.
Severe autism can be characterized by difficulties with social interaction and adaptation to changes. People with an autistic disorder or other pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) may be fidgety, highly sensitive to environmental stimuli (e.g. sound, light), and may perform repeated movements over and over. Autism is also associated with Rett Syndrome and Asperger’s Syndrome.
People with this disorder may have racing thoughts or rapid speech, and may seem agitated and experience bouts of increased physical activity. They might also show poor judgment, have a hard time sleeping, show signs of aggression or severe anger, have difficulty concentrating, and get easily distracted. In the depressive phase, the person will typically feel sad, anxious, and guilty. They might have intense feelings of hopelessness and may even contemplate suicide.
Depression is identified by overwhelming negative feelings, thoughts and behaviors that can impact daily functioning to the point that symptoms are debilitating for the individual. Depressed individuals may have symptoms that include body aches and pains, excessive sleeping, fatigue, difficulty eating and restlessness. Physical symptoms can have a huge impact on your ability to function throughout the day.
Formerly referred to as mental retardation. Intellectual disability is characterized by a low IQ, developmental delays, dependence on others for help with daily tasks, and difficulty concentrating, learning, or socializing. People with intellectual disabilities may need caretakers or access to special education.
Manic Depression (Manic Depressive Disorder)
See also: Bipolar Disorder, for which manic depression is an outdated term.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
OCD is a chronic, or long-term, illness that can take over your life, hurt your relationships, and limit your ability to work or go to school. It is a type of mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts. To get rid of those thoughts, a person repeats the same tasks over and over.
The emotional numbing of PTSD may present as a lack of interest in activities that used to be enjoyed (anhedonia), distancing oneself from people, and/or a sense of a foreshortened future (like not being able to think about the future or make future plans, not believing you will live much longer). While often associated with war veterans, PTSD can affect anyone who has lived through a traumatic event, such as being abused or witnessing an accident.
This condition tends to run in families, and affects an estimated 1.1% of the U.S. population. People with schizophrenia may experience hallucinations, delusional thought patterns, difficulty thinking and speaking clearly, and repetitive body movements.
The SSA will examine drug addiction and alcohol addiction to determine whether or not either one is a contributing factor to a disability. §416.935(2) states, “In making this determination, we will evaluate which of your current physical and mental limitations… would remain if you stopped using drugs or alcohol, and then determine whether any or all of your remaining limitations would be disabling.”
These conditions affect the muscular and skeletal systems, which work together to produce physical motion and provide posture and support. Because they affect the joints, bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments, these disorders often involve restricted movement and physical pain.
It is a common misconception that this condition affects only older people, but actually, almost two-thirds of sufferers are younger than 65. Symptoms can include tenderness, swelling, and stiffness in the joints, accompanied by fatigue. See also: rheumatoid arthritis (RA), osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis.
See also: back pain (under Injury).
The majority of symptoms caused by a bulging disc are related to irritation of spinal nerves. These nerves exit the spine through small holes called foramen. The spinal discs are located next to these nerve passageways. The bulging of the disc material caused by a Bulging Disc can “pinch” these nerves creating a variety of uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)
Thanks to the increase in office and computer work, more and more Americans spend their workweeks performing repetitive motions with their hands and wrists. In some people, these repeated motions can put pressure on the wrist’s median nerve, leading to numbness, tingling, and pain. Severe CTS may even require surgery, which can lead to complications in some cases.
Cervical Disc Disease
In addition to dealing with the pain of a stiff or inflexible neck, many patients with cervical disc degeneration have numbness, tingling, or even weakness in the neck, arms, or shoulders as a result of nerves in the cervical area becoming irritated or pinched.
Causes can include chronic irritation of the nerve roots, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis (evaluated as a neurological condition), neuropathy (also evaluated as neurological), and arthritis. See also: chronic pain (under Injury).
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
This is a common cause of pain in the lower back and neck, which typically worsens during activities which involve flexing the spine (e.g. twisting, lifting). The pain may extend to the hips, thighs, and buttocks, and may be accompanied by weakness or tingling. See also: arthritis.
The most common symptom of fibromyalgia is deep muscular pain which may be throbbing, shooting, stabbing or burning. The pain is often most severe in the morning, and in muscle groups that are used in repetitive actions. Fibromyalgia causes widespread pain in the soft tissues and severe, debilitating fatigue. See also: chronic pain.
See also: herniated disc (under Injury).
Knee Disorder / Replacement
Complications of a replacement can include fractures, infections, and implant failures. See also: chronic pain, arthritis, lupus.
Lumbar Disc Disease
See also: Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD).
Lumbar radiculopathy refers to pain in the lower extremities in a dermatomal pattern. A dermatome is a specific area in the lower extremity innervated by a specific lumbar nerve. This pain is caused by compression of the roots of the spinal nerves in the lumbar region of the spine. See also: back pain, chronic pain.
Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges lining surrounding the brain and the spinal cord. Most cases are caused by viral infection, though fungus and bacteria may also be triggers. Important note: if you suspect you may have meningitis, you should contact a doctor immediately. This condition can potentially kill within days or even hours.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS)
Myofascial syndrome is a pain disorder that affects the muscles and fascia throughout your body. Fascia is like a spider web that surrounds the bones, tissues, organs, and blood vessels throughout the body. Myofascial pain syndrome can attack and cause degeneration of certain areas of the fascia, resulting in chronic pain and a variety of other symptoms. See also: chronic pain, fibromyalgia.
Obesity is defined as having a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 30.0 or higher. Medical factors that can cause or contribute to obesity include depression, chronic insomnia, Cushing’s Syndrome, Prader-Willi Syndrome, and hypothyroidism. See also: endocrine disorders, diabetes, musculoskeletal disorders. See also: COPD, diabetes, heart transplant.
Osteoarthritis arthritis is the most debilitating and is a gradually progressive deterioration of the affected joints. Movement becomes increasingly painful and restricted. The joints of the spine, hands, hips and knees are most frequently affected by osteoarthritis, also commonly called degenerative joint disease. See also: arthritis.
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and swelling of an extremity with varying degrees of sweating, warmth and/or coolness, flushing, discoloration, and shiny skin. In its atrophic stage, RSD can cause loss of motion and function of the involved hand or foot, and/or significant osteoporosis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
This form of arthritis affects an estimated 1.5 million Americans, and affects more women than men. Symptoms include pain, red and swollen joints, joint stiffness, and fatigue. RA can be slowed and relieved by treatment, but not completely cured. See also: arthritis, osteoarthritis, inflammatory arthritis.
With spinal (lumbar) stenosis, the spinal nerve roots in the lower back are compressed, producing symptoms of sciatica (tingling, weakness or numbness that radiates from the low back and into the buttocks and legs) which worsen with activity. Cervical spinal stenosis can be far more dangerous because of the compressing of the spinal cord. Spinal cord stenosis may lead to serious symptoms, including major body weakness or even paralysis.
Temporomandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ)
TMJ is a disorder of the jaw joint and chewing muscles. Some patients suffer from myofascial pain, a derangement of the joint that may involve a displaced disc, or dislocated jaw. Persons who have been diagnosed with TMJ may also have other health problems, such as chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep disturbances, or fibromyalgia.
These are disorders which affect the peripheral or central nervous system (CNS), which together include the brain, the spinal cord, the nervous system, nerves, and muscles. Not to be confused with mental disorders.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s has been added to the SSA’s Compassionate Allowances conditions. In its early-onset form, this condition can appear in people in their fifties, forties, and thirties. Symptoms worsen over time and can include difficulty with memory, concentration, planning, and visual processing.
While associated primarily with cancer, the SSA lists brain tumors as a neurological condition. The main cause of brain tumors is unknown, although people aged 65 an older are at a dramatically increased risk. See also: cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases), chronic migraines.
Cerebral atrophy means the brain is losing cells over time. This cell death and reduced brain mass can cause severe neurological problems. See also: dementia, seizures.
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Cerebral palsy affects about 764,000 Americans. In adults, symptoms and signs may include difficulty with physical movement (e.g. walking, swallowing, grasping objects). See also: intellectual disability, seizures, vision loss, paralysis.
This is a broad term which can refer to any decline in mental capacity. See also: Alzheimer’s, cerebral atrophy.
Epilepsy causes seizures, which can, in turn, lead to serious physical injuries. This condition can be caused by tumors, infections, or head injuries. See also: cancer (malignant neoplastic diseases), meningitis, seizures.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
Multiple sclerosis is classified as an autoimmune disorder, though the SSA evaluates MS under neurological conditions. MS is a disease of the CNS (central nervous system), and for most people, symptoms first appear during their twenties, thirties, or forties. These symptoms can include speech problems, muscle tremors, weakness in the limbs, restricted movement, and reduced vision. See also: vision loss, paralysis.
Muscular dystrophy is caused by a genetic defect which causes muscle fibers to be weak and susceptible to damage. There is no known cure, although treatment can help slow the disease. There are many different sub-types of muscular dystrophy. Effects may include difficulty breathing or swallowing, rigid or paralyzed limbs, and weakness. See also: respiratory illness, heart disease, paralysis.
Peripheral neuropathy, or nerve damage, can start with something as simple as a tingling sensation in the toes or in the balls of the feet that eventually spreads up the legs towards the trunk of the body. It can manifest as weakness or heaviness in muscles throughout the body, and may be accompanied by cramping, especially in the feet, legs, and hands. Neuropathy can cause difficulty walking and/or problems with balance or coordination. See also: diabetes.
Referred to as Parkinsonian Syndrome by the SSA, this condition results in muscle tremors, difficulty walking (with a characteristic shuffling gait), stiffness or rigidity, and difficulty speaking. Parkinson’s is a progressive condition which becomes worse over time.
While all seizures are caused by electrical activity in the brain, different additional causes can include infections and abnormal glucose levels. Seizures can be extremely unpredictable and dangerous, particularly in work environments involving transportation or heavy machinery. See also: diabetes, endocrine disorders, meningitis, epilepsy.
Severe Headaches / Chronic Migraines
Recurring migraines and severe headaches can cause nausea, vomiting, and incapacitating pain which can last for days. Causes may include hormonal imbalances, tumors, infections, or inflammation. See also: meningitis, cancer (malignant neoplasms).
Stroke occurs when the flow of blood and oxygen to part of the brain is cut off. Stroke survivors may experience weakness, pain or stiffness in the joints, difficulty with speech and language, visual problems, memory problems, reduced sensation, and muscle spasms. The SSA’s Listing of Impairments refers to a stroke as a central nervous system vascular accident. See also: vision loss.
The respiratory system controls breathing, and includes the diaphragm, trachea, lungs, bronchi, and bronchioles.
Asthma affects an estimated 25 million people in the United States. When a person has asthma, his or her airways become inflamed, meaning they become narrower, meaning breathing properly can become extremely difficult. Asthma attacks can flare up without warning at any time.
COPD (Pulmonary Disease)
COPD stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, with pulmonary referring to the lungs. People with COPD have an increased incidence of respiratory infections, including colds, flu and pneumonia, which can increase damage to the lungs. See also: obesity, lung transplant.
Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
Cystic fibrosis or CF is a debilitating and potentially fatal hereditary illness which affects an estimated 30,000 people in the United States. In CF cases, a defective gene causes thick, sticky mucus to accumulate in the lungs and pancreatic ducts. This leads to coughing, difficulty breathing, and recurring lung infections. See also: lung transplant, liver transplant.
See also: cystic fibrosis, COPD, lung cancer.
Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), and heart failure. It can cause fatigue, morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, snoring and memory problems. If you suffer from chronic pain, sleep apnea can make that pain acuter. See also: obesity, cardiovascular disorders.
The skin is the body’s largest organ, with an average area of 20 square feet. Because the skin is indispensable to temperature regulation, protection from the elements, and physical sensation, a disease or disorder can have disabling effects.
Severe burns can have devastating effects on virtually every system of the body. Because they damage the skin, which regulates temperature and keeps out harmful substances, as well as the body’s immune system, burn patients have an increased risk of infection, fever, dehydration, and kidney (renal) failure. The SSA evaluates burns under both skin disorders and musculoskeletal disorders (i.e. soft tissue injury). See also: kidney transplants.
Dermatitis, also called eczema, refers to skin inflammation. In severe cases, symptoms may include intense itching, scaly, blotchy, or bleeding skin, oozing blisters, and skin cracking.
One out of 50 adults suffers from a skin condition called psoriasis. The area may feel itchy and may have a burning sensation. You also never know how long it will last; it may last two days, two months or two years. The worst part for those afflicted by psoriasis is that the condition is persistent and will likely last a lifetime. This means flare-ups can occur anytime.
Special Senses and Speech
In the Listing of Impairments, special senses and speech refer to visual, hearing, and speech disorders. These may be effects of other conditions, or may be caused by a severe injury.
Glaucoma is one of the most common eye diseases and a leading cause of blindness. This condition occurs when an increase in fluid pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure, or IOP) damages the optic nerve, causing reduced vision.
Hearing Impairment / Deafness
May or may not be treated with a cochlear implant. Both types of impaired hearing may be eligible for benefits. Causes of partial or total deafness may include injury, infection, prolonged exposure to loud noises, and genetic abnormalities.
Meniere’s Disease is a condition of the inner ear, and therefore affects balance and hearing. Side effects can include disabling vertigo, tinnitus (ringing ears), and bouts of hearing loss. One or both ears may be affected. See also: deafness.
Vision loss can be caused by external trauma or an internal medical condition. It may occur in one or both eyes. See also: glaucoma, diabetes, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke.
The vestibular system is comprised of the brain and inner ear. Vestibular abnormalities can cause dizziness, loss of balance, vertigo, and tinnitus. See also: vision loss, Meniere’s Disease.
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