Scleroderma – Conditions & Symptoms
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that results in thickening, scarring, and inflammation of the connective tissues in the skin, blood vessels, and other organs of the body. An autoimmune disease is any disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy, normal body cells.
Scleroderma is categorized by the area of the body it affects and its severity. It is also classified as either effecting a limited area of the body, or many body systems, which is more severe and dangerous.
The milder form usually only affects the skin of the face and hands. The two most common forms of scleroderma that are concentrated on small areas of skin are morphea and linear scleroderma. Morphea is identified by oval patches of hard, darkened skin. Linear scleroderma consists of long lines of hardened skin on the legs or arms that most commonly occurs in children and can affect their growth.
The more severe form of scleroderma is referred to as systemic or diffuse because it covers multiple body areas and systems. It is present in not only the face and hands, but over other areas of the body, including the torso. This type also refers to scleroderma that is active in the inner organs, most commonly blood vessels, the heart, lungs, kidneys, and intestines. Scleroderma that affects vital organs can be very dangerous, causing high blood pressure, difficulty breathing, intestinal miss-function, and other debilitating conditions.
The conditions which less serious cases of scleroderma cause are usually easy to identify. The most common conditions have been shortened to the acronym CREST (calcinosis, Reynaud’s phenomenon, esophagus disease, Sclerodactyly, and Telangiectasias). Calcinosis is calcium deposits in the skin. Reynaud’s phenomenon is a malfunction of the tiny blood vessels that reach the fingertips and other extremities, which can result in damage to skin cells or destroy them. Esophagus disease caused from scleroderma has various forms and often results in heartburn and difficulty swallowing food. Sclerodactyly is an extreme thickening of the skin, usually on the fingers and toes, which can make mobility difficult and/or painful. Lastly, telangiectasias is the condition of persistently red areas of skin, caused from scleroderma’s damage to the capillaries in the affected areas. These are not the only symptoms, but the most common.
Scleroderma is not contagious and not conclusively hereditary. There is evidence to suggest that race does at least play a part in the odds of having scleroderma, such as in the case of studies on particular Native American tribes and African Americans. It is also more prevalent in women than men, and mostly shows up in adulthood. The milder form is commonly present in children when it does show up early on.
Besides the usual symptoms of scleroderma, which can sometimes overlap with that of other autoimmune diseases, blood tests are used to identify the antibodies known to be present in scleroderma sufferers.
There is no known cure for scleroderma, as with many other immune disorders. Most often, treatment is based on symptoms in the affected areas, and can include a variety of specialists, such as dermatologists. Some treatments focus on inhibiting the immune system, the main culprit in autoimmune diseases.
Filing for Disability with a scleroderma diagnosis
If you have sufficient medical proof for scleroderma as outlined in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book of qualifying impairments, and can also prove that it is disabling, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Scleroderma is listed as an immune system disorder in both the adult and childhood listing of impairments, and specifically as an autoimmune disease. To medically qualify for SSDI benefits, you must demonstrate through your medical documentation that you have scleroderma as defined in section 14.00 of the Blue Book and one of the following combinations of impairment.
Your scleroderma must affect at least two areas of your body, with one area severely affected. You must also have at least two symptoms of severe illness, as defined by the SSA. If you have less severe but chronic scleroderma, you must again show two symptoms of extreme illness in addition to proving that your scleroderma also severely affects your ability to function in daily life and maintain an occupation.
If your scleroderma is severe in mobility areas such as your feet and hands, you must prove that it severely limits or eliminates your ability to walk and/or use your hands dexterously, and therefore affects your ability to perform physical work.
Severe cases of Reynaud’s syndrome, one of the common conditions associated with scleroderma, is often enough to prove your eligibility for disability benefits because of the numbing and often gangrenous effects on extremities such as the hands and feet.
Your Scleroderma Disability Case
Since scleroderma has various symptoms and levels of severity, it will be helpful to get as much medical documentation as possible detailing your condition, especially from doctors that specialize in the affected body systems. Employ the help of a Social Security attorney who handles disability cases to further ensure the approval of your disability claim