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Crohn's Disease and Social Security Disability

Crohn’s Disease - Condition and Symptoms

Crohn’s Disease is a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). It is a chronic inflammatory disease of the digestive tract which usually affects both the large and small intestine. Depending on the individual case, Crohn’s Disease can cause severe problems and be a chronic, recurring condition or, on the contrary, cause only minimal symptoms. Basically the condition causes ulcers in the colon, and those ulcers can lead to scarring, stiffness, narrowing, and even obstruction of the bowel. In some cases, the ulcers can eat through the intestinal wall and cause infection. Depending on the part of the intestine that is affected, Crohn’s Disease is known as Crohn colitis or granulomatous colitis, Crohn enteritis, Crohn ileitis, or Crohn enterocolitis (or ileocolitis).

In addition to a physical examination and laboratory tests to rule out other conditions or a temporary infection, your doctor will use some sort of imaging test to determine whether you have Crohn’s Disease or ulcerative colitis. While these two conditions have similar symptoms, medications that are effective for one are not as effective for treating the other. In order to make this diagnosis, your doctor may perform a sigmoidoscopy, a colonoscopy, or a barium enema.

Diarrhea lasting more than three days, vomiting, blood in the stool, reduced appetite and weight loss, and abdominal pain are all symptoms of Crohn’s Disease. This condition can also cause fever, tender skin, inflammation of the joints, spine, eyes, and liver, and skin disorders.

While the exact cause or causes of Crohn’s Disease are still unknown, the medical community has proposed that factors including diet, stress, allergies, heredity, reaction to prescription drugs such as Accutane, or a malfunctioning immune system could potentially trigger the condition.

Treatment usually focuses on reducing symptoms of the disease or bringing it into remission. Doctors generally favor the use of medications to treat Crohn’s Disease, prescribing anti-inflammatories, immune suppressors, or antibiotics. Surgery can be necessary in severe cases. Alternative treatments can reduce symptoms and include relaxation techniques, guided imagery, biofeedback, tai chi, acupuncture, and acupressure. However, herbal, homeopathic or other treatments that are ingested are not recommended.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Crohn’s Disease Diagnosis

As a type of inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s Disease is considered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be a disorder of the digestive system. As such, it is considered under Section 5.00 of the Blue Book.

In order to apply for disability benefits based on a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease, the SSA requires you to submit medical records for all imaging studies (MRI or CT scans), endoscopy (colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, or barium enema), operations, and laboratory tests that you have had with respect to your Crohn’s Disease. These medical records should document the severity and duration of your condition at the time you are requesting Social Security disability benefits.

In assessing your condition and the effects of treatment, SSA will look at the severity and duration of your disorder while under treatment, any improvement you experience under treatment, and at any side effects of treatment. The SSA therefore requires detailed information about the type or types of treatment you receive, as well as frequency, dosage, method of administration, and expected duration.

As always, SSA is looking to assess your “residual functional capacity,” which means how your Crohn’s Disease affects your ability to work and perform daily tasks. In order to receive disability benefits, you will have to show that your Crohn’s Disease is severe enough to prevent you from working and that it severely limits your normal daily activities.

Your Crohn’s Disease Disability Case

If you are disabled because of Crohn’s Disease that is so severe it prevents you from working, you may well be entitled to Social Security Disability (SSDI) benefits. Although total disability based on a diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease can be difficult to prove, working closely with medical professionals and a qualified Social Security disability attorney or advocate to collect and present the appropriate medical evidence to support your disability claim in front of the Disability Determination Services (DDS) can help to ensure that your Crohn’s Disease disability claim will have the highest possible chance of success.