Peripheral Artery Disease – Conditions and Symptoms
Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is a documented medical condition which is caused by the narrowing of the arteries in the extremities, especially the legs, and results in limited blood flow to the surrounding tissues. Normally the blood is pumped from the heart to the tissues in the extremities and is able to bring the necessary nutrients and oxygen. When you have Peripheral Artery Disease, the arteries are narrowed and the blood cannot flow through in the volume the tissues need.
This lack of blood flow is especially notable during exercise. As the strain of exercise increases, the muscles and surrounding tissues require more oxygen in order to properly function. When the artery carrying oxygen has a limited blood flow, the muscles do not receive the oxygen they are demanding. This is the cause of the most common symptom, pain in the legs, usually the calf. The calf pain, also known as intermittent claudication, can very in intensity from mild cramping to excruciating pain but will usually go away after a period of rest.
Other symptoms of Peripheral Artery Disease include leg weakness or numbness, coldness of a leg or foot that is noticeably different than the other leg, sores that do not heal on the leg or foot, or a lack of a pulse or very weak pulse in the leg.
Such symptoms can be a warning and should not be ignored. These signs can indicate a build up of plaque in your arteries and, left untreated, can lead to stroke or heart attack. There is also the very real possibility of having to have a limb amputated due to critical limb ischemia or the loss of blood flow to the limb.
There are several risk factors to consider when living with Peripheral Artery Disease. Smoking is the greatest risk because it narrows the already dangerously narrow arteries and further reduces blood flow. Diabetics are also at risk and need to be especially careful to maintain their blood sugars within the acceptable limits. Obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or a family history can also indicate an increased risk.
In order to diagnose Peripheral Artery Disease, your doctor will start with a physical exam. Sometimes the blood flow in the narrowed artery will create a whooshing sound your doctor can hear through his stethoscope. The next step is checking your ankle-brachial index (ABI). To check this, your doctor will have you perform some light exercise, usually walking on a treadmill, and compare the blood pressure readings on your arm and your ankle both before and after the physical exertion.
Ultrasound devices such as a Doppler are also used to check blood flow and find blockages in your arteries. An angiography, during which your doctor injects dye into your blood vessels and tracks its progress through your body via x-ray or MRI machine, is also an effective diagnostic tool.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease
Peripheral Artery Disease is recognized by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a disabling disease under some circumstances. Because this disease is an impairment of the cardiovascular system, it can have severe ramifications and can prevent some people from achieving substantial gainful activity of any sort. Not all people with the diagnosis are qualified for benefits. There has to be a significant impairment of the ability to do any type of work even with treatment for the disease. The specific requirements the SSA considers can be found in Section 4.0 Cardiovascular – Adult in the Social Security Blue Book.
In order to file for Social Security Disability benefits with a diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease, you must first be positively diagnosed with the disease by a doctor. There must be ongoing documentation of the discovery and treatment of your disease, and documentation of how you are responding to the treatments your doctor has prescribed.
At the bare minimum, three months of documented treatment is required. Often, the SSA will require documentation of more extended treatment time to see how you are going to respond to treatment in order to evaluate your claim. In this case, the SSA will revisit the claim in three months to see if there is enough documentation to establish how you are reacting to your treatments. This waiting period can also occur when your disease is not stable, or if you have just begun a new treatment and there are not yet any documented results.
The SSA has defined requirements for applying for Social Security disability benefits. To qualify for benefits with Peripheral Artery Disease, you must have imaging documentation from a Doppler or Angiography and experience intermittent claudication in addition to one of the following:
- A resting ABI of less than 0.5.
- A 50% decrease in systolic blood pressure at the ankle with exercise that requires 10 minutes or more to recover.
- A resting toe systolic blood pressure of less than 30 mm Hg.
- A resting toe/brachial index of less than 0.4.
Your Peripheral Artery Disease Social Security Disability Case
If you have received a diagnosis of Peripheral Artery Disease and can no longer work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. The process of gathering all the proper documentation and paperwork to prove that you are totally disabled can be an arduous task.
If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contacting a Social Security Disability lawyer may greatly improve your chances of a successful claim. The initial consultation with a disability lawyer is free, and your attorney will only collect a fee if you are successfully awarded Social Security Disability benefits.
To speak directly with a Social Security Disability lawyer, or to find out more about the options available to you if you have PAD, request a free disability evaluation today.