Dermatomyositis and Social Security Disability

Dermatomyositis – Condition and Symptoms

Dermatomyositis is an inflammatory condition that affects the skin and the muscles. It is part of a group of conditions known as inflammatory myopathies; myopathy refers to disease or abnormality in the muscles. Dermatomyositis is also part of the group of autoimmune diseases, which means it can be caused by a reaction within the body’s immune system. Some of the inflammatory myopathies can be caused by infections from bacteria, viruses, or parasites, but usually there is no identifiable cause. There also appears to be some degree of genetic susceptibility to this type of illness.

The main identifying symptom of Dermatomyositis is a purplish-red rash that appears around the eyes, face, knuckles, knees, elbows, back and chest. This rash may or may not be accompanied by swelling in the muscles. In some cases, calcium deposits may show up as hard bumps under the skin or within the muscles. There is also a group of symptoms known as constitutional symptoms that includes fever, severe fatigue, malaise (general body weakness or discomfort), and unintentional weight loss. Another identifying symptom is muscle weakness that appears symmetrically, meaning it is the same on both sides of the body. It typically appears first in the muscle groups closest to the torso such as the hips, shoulders, upper-legs and arms, and tends to progressively get worse over time. Other symptoms may include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems such as ulcer, etc., especially in children.
  • Lung problems
  • Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)

Dermatomyositis usually affects more women than men. It mostly hits adults in their late 40s to early 60s or children between the ages of 5 and 15, but anyone can develop it.

Dermatomyositis is not curable, but it can be treated. Anti-inflammatory medications can help with the muscle inflammation, as may some steroids. Pain medications may be necessary. Since Dermatomyositis can be the result of an immune system malfunction, immunosuppressant medications may help to keep the immune system from wreaking additional havoc. Several different therapies may assist with swallowing difficulties. Surgery may be necessary to remove painful calcium deposits. As is the case with many other diseases and conditions, early detection and treatment have been associated with more favorable outcomes.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Dermatomyositis diagnosis

Dermatomyositis has been identified by the Social Security Administration as one of the conditions that can qualify a person to receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. In their impairment listing manual (also called the “Blue Book”), the SSA spells out the criteria they use to determine whether or not a person meets their definition for disability. In the case of Dermatomyositis, these criteria are:

  • Muscle weakness in the pelvis or shoulder areas that causes the inability to walk or perform large and small movements effectively such that activities of daily living are profoundly impacted, or
  • Dysphagia with aspiration resulting from muscle weakness, or
  • Breathing problems caused by weakness of the diaphragm or intercostal muscles (muscles between the ribs), or
  • Repeated episodes of dermatomyositis, including a minimum of 2 of the constitutional symptoms and one of the following
    • Impact to the activities of daily living
    • Impact to social function
    • Inability to complete tasks effectively due to inability to follow through for physical, mental or psychological reasons

Dermatomyositis may be diagnosed through a number of different methods. Often, the distinctive rash can form the basis for a diagnosis. The disease can also be revealed through Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), where the inflammation and myopathy can be detected. Other diagnostic methods such as blood tests, muscle biopsies, skin tests, and electromyography can be used to definitively diagnose the presence of Dermatomyositis.

Your Dermatomyositis Disability Case

If you have been diagnosed with Dermatomyositis and find yourself unable to work due to the symptoms from it, there is a good chance that you may be qualified to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Because the application and approval process for benefits can quickly become very complicated, it is strongly suggested that you seek the services of a Social Security Disability attorney or advocate.

As with any government program geared toward helping people who need it, the Social Security system is vulnerable to misuse by people who don’t have a genuine need for it. As a result of trying to weed out this fraud, as many as 70% of the applications submitted for the first time are denied. The majority of these applications are denied simply because the paperwork isn’t filled out correctly or because some documentation is missing. If you are suffering with Dermatomyositis and your symptoms are such that they qualify you to receive disability benefits, an experienced Social Security Disability lawyer knows how to complete your application paperwork so that you don’t have to wait longer than necessary for your benefits to be on their way to you.