June Disease Awareness – Scleroderma

Submitted by Daniel on

Scleroderma is a progressive autoimmune disease which affects over 300,000 Americans. The most readily recognizable symptom of scleroderma is a hardening of the skin. Scleroderma can also cause problems with a number of our internal organs. In some cases, it can lead to multiple organ failure and death.

While as many as one in ten Americans are affected by Scleroderma, the disease is still classified as a “rare” disease. Little is known about what causes scleroderma, and there is no known cure as of the time of this writing. At present, medical treatments are limited to attempting to deal with the symptoms of scleroderma-many of which are treatable.

The Scleroderma Foundation, formed in 1988 by a merger between two older organizations dedicated to the same purposes, is the key organization dedicated to educating the public about scleroderma and raising funds for scleroderma research. June is National Scleroderma Awareness Month. The organization makes its headquarters in Danvers, Massachusetts. In addition to their other activities, they maintain a website dedicated to educating people about scleroderma, its impact, and recent developments in its treatment.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes scleroderma as a condition which can be disabling. Scleroderma is covered under listing 14.04 of the SSA’s Listing of Impairments (Blue Book). Simply being diagnosed with scleroderma does not necessarily qualify you for disability benefits. There are four factors the SSA uses to determine whether a scleroderma case is disabling enough to merit Social Security disability benefits.

The first factor the SSA looks at is whether scleroderma affects the internal organs and, if so, how many. The SSA guidelines stipulate that at least two organs must be affected to a “moderate” level. To qualify as “moderate,” the damaged organs must cause weight loss, fever, malaise, and/or fatigue. Generally speaking, at least two negative effects must be evidenced and documented.

The second factor the SSA considers when looking at claims based on scleroderma is whether there is any atrophy or contractures in the sufferer’s extremities (toes and fingers). These conditions, if present, must be severe enough to limit a person’s ability to walk (if in the toes) or perform fine motor movements (if in the fingers). Generally speaking, atrophy must be present in one leg or both arms to meet the SSA listing.

The third thing the SSA looks for in scleroderma cases is gangrene in the extremities. When associated with scleroderma, this is known as Raynaud Phenomenon. A total of at least two hands or feet must be affected.

Finally, the SSA considers the limitations which scleroderma places on an individual. In order to qualify for benefits due to limitations associated with scleroderma, you must be limited in your abilities to concentrate, function in social settings, or perform routine activities of daily living. Persons claiming these limitations generally must also show that they have had fatigue, weight loss, malaise, and/or fever.

As with any other condition, it is important that those who intend to claim disability benefits for scleroderma receive regular medical treatment. Thorough documentation is needed to establish a disability claim based on scleroderma.

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