Neuropathy, which is often referred to as Peripheral Neuropathy in clinical discussions, is a medical condition in which the nerves of the peripheral nervous system have been damaged by trauma, disease, or as a symptom of another systemic illness, like diabetes, for example.
There are four primary forms of neuropathy: autonomic, mononeuritis multiplex, mononeuropathy, and polyneuropathy. Any of these forms may cause disability, if the condition is advanced and severe enough to limit your ability to perform normal job duties.
Neuropathy is commonly seen in conjunction with other medical conditions. For instance, if your neuropathy was caused by an accident or injury, then you may also be limited by the concurrent condition and its other symptoms. The same is true when neuropathy occurs as a side effect of a systemic illness like diabetes. You may be limited on the work you can perform as a result of the diabetes as well as the neuropathy.
Neuropathy and Physical Capacity
While symmetrical peripheral polyneuropathy is the most common form of the condition and causes pain, numbness and other neurological symptoms in the legs and feet, neuropathy can occur in any area of the peripheral nervous system. This means that you may be unable to work as a result of your condition no matter which nerves are affected.
The kind of work you’re required to perform on a daily basis is primarily what will determine if you’re able to continue working even with your neuropathy. The nerves affected by your condition and the severity of your pain and other symptoms also determine if you’re able to maintain employment.
If for example, your neuropathy does affect the nerves in your legs and feet and your job requires you to stand or walk the majority of your shift, then odds are high that you’ll be unable to continue performing your regular job duties. Pain, numbness, tingling and other similar neurological symptoms are not the only issues you may face with your neuropathy.
The condition can also result in an unsteady gain, loss of function in the limbs, and muscle spasms, cramping, or tremors. Some patients experience such severe symptoms that anything that touches the skin can cause heightened pain. If your condition worsens or is severe enough to affect your physical capacity to perform your job, then you may need to file for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
While there are medications that can treat the symptoms of neuropathy, most have substantial side effects that can also affect your physical capacity to perform your regular job duties effectively. For instance, severe neuropathy may require the use of narcotic pain killers, and the side effects of narcotics can prevent you from thinking clearly, staying awake, or operating equipment – all of which may make it impossible for you to hold a job.
Neuropathy and Mental Capacity
While neuropathy alone does not typically result in mental capacity issues, like clarity of thought, memory, concentration, or decision making problems, concurrent medical conditions can result in these types of symptoms, and may affect your ability to continue working as a result. For instance, neuropathy can accompany other medical conditions, like MS, for example, which is a systemic illness that can have an effect on mental capacity.
Additionally, the pain and fatigue that come with neuropathy can take a toll on your mental functions. Your ability to concentrate, think through problems, and your general mental acuity can all be affected by the level of pain or exhaustion you experience as a result of your neuropathy. Not to mention the side effects that may be caused by required medications, such as pain killers or other drugs necessary for treating your neuropathy symptoms.
Applying for Disability with Neuropathy
You may need to apply for SSD benefits in order to meet your financial needs. If so, then you will need to not only thoroughly document the effects of your neuropathy on your ability to work and perform other activities of daily living, but you will also need to ensure your medical records also contain details of how any concurrent medical condition you may have affects you as well.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will want to understand all of your medical concerns and exam how each condition you may have affects your ability to work in your traditional field as well as any other area of the job market. Medical records are a big part of a successful application for SSD benefits.
Receiving a favorable determination on your eligibility for SSD benefits means you must ensure your medical documentation proves your disability. To make sure your records meet the SSA’s requirements, you’ll need to work closely with your treating physician, and you may also want to consider seeking assistance from a Social Security Disability advocate or attorney. Fill out the free evaluation form on this site for a free evaluation of your case by an attorney or advocate in your area.