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Interstitial Cystitis and Social Security Disability

Interstitial Cystitis - Condition and Symptoms

Interstitial Cystitis, also called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic inflammation of the bladder wall, which is often mistaken for a urinary tract infection. The cause of this condition is unknown. Some people experience only pain, others frequent, urgent urination, but most experience both.

The normal bladder stores urine until it is full and then signals the nerves in the pelvis that it is time to urinate. These nerve signals are faulty in people with Interstitial Cystitis and the person with this condition feels the need to urinate even when the bladder is empty or only partially full. Research indicates that people with Interstitial Cystitis may also have a defect in the lining of the bladder that allows substances to irritate it and stimulate the nerves. This condition is more prevalent in those who have allergies, infections, or an autoimmune reaction. The tendency may also be hereditary.

If your doctor suspects that you may have Interstitial Cystitis, he or she will first have to rule out all the other conditions that could cause the same symptoms, such as bladder infection, bladder cancer, and sexually transmitted diseases. In order to do this, your doctor may order a urine culture and analysis, urine cytology, and/or a bladder biopsy or bladder endoscopy.

Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis include painful urination, urinary frequency and urgency, pelvic pain, and painful sexual intercourse. Treatments and results vary from person to person, since it is not known exactly what causes this condition. While some people respond well to treatments and dietary changes, others need medication and possibly surgery. While there is no cure for this condition, treatments usually bring relief.

Treatments include medication to coat the bladder, pain killers, antidepressants to relieve pain and urinary frequency, and antihistamines, which can help the person sleep and also help reduce urinary frequency. Some people find that dietary modification will control their symptoms, by avoiding foods that irritate the bladder. Relaxation techniques, biofeedback, physical therapy to relieve pelvic floor muscle spasms, and medicines placed directly into the bladder are also used. Surgery to remove the bladder can be recommended in the most severe cases.

Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis

Unfortunately, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not include a listing for Interstitial Cystitis in its Blue Book. Therefore, proving total disability and obtaining Social Security Disability benefits because of Interstitial Cystitis can be difficult, since there are not specific criteria for this condition. SSA has issued a ruling on Interstitial Cystitis ("Policy Interpretation ruling, titles 2 and titles 16: Evaluation of Interstitial Cystitis”), which does recognize the disorder, describes it, and also describes the evaluation process used by SSA, essentially admitting this condition as one that is both painful and potentially disabling.

With respect to all conditions, including Interstitial Cystitis, in order to qualify for disability benefits, you must have a severe mental or physical impairment, or a combination of impairments, that prevents you from performing your past work or any other type of work, and your condition (or conditions) must have lasted for at least twelve continuous months or be expected to result in death. In addition, with respect to all conditions, SSA is most interested in what you are able to do when treated, that is, your “residual functional capacity.” Therefore, if you file for disability benefits due to Interstitial Cystitis, you will want to address these concerns.

If your Interstitial Cystitis is associated with another disorder, such as lupus, for which there is a listing, it might be useful to apply for disability benefits due to a diagnosis of the condition which has a listing in the Blue Book and to include Interstitial Cystitis as a secondary disabling condition.

Because SSA considers reported pain, weakness, fatigue, and other symptoms of your condition when evaluating your need for disability benefits, it is important to supply detailed information to SSA regarding your daily activities and detailed descriptions of how your symptoms limit your functional abilities. In its evaluation process, SSA considers the duration, frequency, and intensity of symptoms, those things that cause or aggravate symptoms, the type of treatment you follow to control your symptoms, and how you respond to treatment. SSA also takes into account symptoms not controlled by treatment, such as fatigue and persistent weakness.

Make sure all medical records have been submitted and contain enough detail to confirm the diagnosis of Interstitial Cystitis. It is always a good idea to enlist the aid of a professional who is familiar with SSA and the disability application process to assist you in assembling the medical proof you need to obtain disability benefits.

Your Interstitial Cystitis Disability Case

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