Multiple Myeloma – Condition and Symptoms
Multiple Myeloma is a cancer of the plasma cells, which are a type of white blood cells which are present in the bone marrow. The main function of these cells is to make a type of proteins called antibodies, which help the body to fight off infections.
When some of the plasma cells develop abnormally, they become myeloma cells. These myeloma cells then begin to multiply. Because there are additional cells manufacturing proteins, the protein level in the blood increases to potentially dangerous levels. As these myeloma cells multiply, they can build up in areas of the bones and cause lesions, and also may interfere with the bone marrow’s production of healthy blood cells. Also, myeloma often results in the production of paraprotein, which can cause kidney problems and also disrupts the body’s production of normal antibodies, which can lead to immunity system difficulties.
In the early stages, multiple myeloma may be detectable through blood or urine tests but may not produce any symptoms. At this stage, close monitoring is necessary to facilitate treatment as soon as it becomes necessary. When symptoms begin to show up, they may include:
- Bone pain, especially in the ribs and the spine. This pain may worsen with activity.
- Infections, especially pneumonia.
- Kidney problems, caused by excessive protein in the blood.
As the affected bones begin to break down a bit, the level of calcium in the bloodstream can increase (a condition known as hypercalcemia), which can make kidney problems worse and may also cause neurological problems, including headaches and vision changes.
As previously mentioned, multiple myeloma may be present in the system without symptoms. At this point, it is important that the disease be monitored to see if it is getting worse; if so, treatment may be necessary. When it is necessary to treat the disease, there are a number of powerful medications which may be used to stop the cancerous growth of the plasma cells; corticosteroids may also be used. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy may be used to kill existing cancerous cells. Stem cell or bone marrow transplantation has shown to be an effective treatment for some people. Unfortunately, relapse is a common occurrence among those who have been treated for multiple myeloma. Other common complications may include bone loss, anemia, and kidney damage, which may necessitate dialysis.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Multiple Myeloma Diagnosis
Multiple Myeloma has been determined by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to be one of the diseases which can cause a person to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. In their impairment listing manual (otherwise known as the “Blue Book”), the SSA details the criteria which are used to evaluate the impact of the disease on the life of the patient in order to determine the status of the disability claim. In the case of Multiple Myeloma, those criteria are:
- Failure to respond to treatment or continuing disease in spite of therapy used to prevent the abnormal growth of new cells, or
- Multiple myeloma with stem cell or bone marrow transplantation. The patient will be considered to be disabled for one year following the date of surgery, with the patient’s condition to be thereafter evaluated based on ongoing complications. For example, if kidney disease lingered past the one year mark, the disability case would then be evaluated based on that diagnosis.
It is also important to note that the SSA specifies that the disease is to be confirmed through appropriate blood or urine tests and through bone marrow examinations, which would usually include a bone marrow biopsy.
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If you have been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and have been unable to work either because of the disease or because of the impact the treatment has had on you, then it is possible that you could qualify to receive Social Security Disability benefits. In order to minimize the chance of having your case be delayed by a lengthy appeal, it is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced Social Security Disability attorney.
While filling out an application doesn’t seem very intimidating to most of us, the reality is that over two thirds of the first-time applications for Social Security Disability Income benefits are denied. All too often, the people whose cases are denied are completely entitled to receive their benefits. The problem is not with their condition, but with proving their condition. Having a disabling condition that qualifies is one thing, but having that condition properly documented so that it will withstand the scrutiny of a legal proceeding is another matter entirely. Your qualified Social Security Disability has the skills and the resources to make sure that all of your documentation accurately reflects the medical impact this disease has had upon your life, minimizing the possibility that your case could get stuck for months or maybe even years in the seemingly endless appeal process.