Polymyositis – Condition and Symptoms
Polymyositis is a disease which affects the connective tissues, especially the muscles. It is part of a larger group of diseases called inflammatory myopathies, all of which result in weakness and inflammation of muscle tissue. Polymyositis can affect anyone, although it is more prevalent in adults in their 30s to their 50s. Women are more likely to develop it, and it is more prevalent in black people than in whites.
Sometimes bacterial, viral or parasitic infections can result in inflammatory myopathies, but most of the time there is no identifiable cause. There is some evidence to suggest that some of the inflammatory myopathies may be caused when the body’s immune system starts to produce antibodies that attack parts of the body, which is known as an autoimmune disease. There is also evidence which suggests that some people have a genetically predisposed susceptibility to this type of illness.
The onset of symptoms of Polymyositis usually occurs very slowly, making it hard to narrow down when they began. They are also somewhat inconsistent, coming and going at first. When symptoms are detectable, they may include:
- Weakness in the muscle groups closest to the trunk, including the shoulders, pelvis, hips, thighs, upper arms and neck. This weakness is symmetrical, meaning it affects both left and right sides equally. It usually continues to worsen over time.
- Difficulty swallowing (also known as dysphagia) resulting from weakness of the muscles in the throat and/or esophagus.
- Problems with speech
- Breathing problems as the diaphragm and the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) are impacted.
- Calcium deposits may show up as hard lumps in the muscles, skin or connective tissues.
Also, there may be a group of symptoms known as constitutional symptoms which include fever, fatigue, involuntary weight loss and malaise (a feeling of general discomfort or weakness).
Sometimes, difficulty with swallowing may result in food or liquids being drawn into the lungs, resulting in pneumonia.
Polymyositis is incurable, but it can be treated. Corticosteroids may be used to suppress the immune system and to reduce the muscle inflammation. Antibody therapies can help to reduce the body’s own immune system malfunctions. Speech therapy and physical therapy may also be added. Dietary modification may be necessary to minimize chewing and swallowing problems.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Polymyositis Diagnosis
Polymyositis has been identified by the Social Security Administration as one of the conditions that can cause a person to qualify to receive Social Security Disability Income benefits. In the Autoimmune Diseases section of their impairment listing manual (alternatively called the “Blue Book”), the SSA details the criteria they use to evaluate the impact of the disease and decide whether or not disability benefits are warranted. These criteria include:
- Weakness of the pelvis, hips or shoulders causing the inability to walk or to perform large and small movements effectively (at a given level of severity), or
- Difficulty swallowing caused by muscle weakness resulting in aspiration into the lungs, or
- Breathing difficulties due to weakness of the diaphragm or intercostal muscles, or
- Calcium deposits which limit joint mobility or intestinal function, or
Repeated symptoms of Polymyositis, with a minimum of 2 constitutional symptoms, and one of the following:
- Impact to the activities of daily living
- Impact to social function
- Impact to one’s ability to complete caused by inability to concentrate or focus.
Polymyositis can be diagnosed using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (or MRI) to detect muscular inflammation, weakness and calcium deposits. Electromyography may be used to measure the electrical activity within the muscles. Muscle biopsies may be necessary to observe microscopic abnormalities within the muscle cells. Blood tests may be used to detect changes in enzymes or antibodies which can be indicators of the presence of the disease. Be aware that diagnosis of Polymyositis may be a long, frustrating process.
In addition to proving your condition medically, you must also have a worked at a job for 5 out of the last 10 years during which you paid FICA taxes. If you do not have the sufficient work credits, you may still qualify for SSI if you meet the maximum asset requirements.
Your Polymyositis Disability Case
If you have been diagnosed with Polymyositis and are unable to work because of the impact the disease has had on your health, there is a good chance that you are entitled to receive Social Security Disability Income benefits. Because the application and approval process can quickly become a complicated affair, you would be very wise to seek the assistance of a qualified Social Security Disability attorney.
While filling out some application paperwork may not seem like a terribly difficult job, the fact is that less than one third of the first-time applications for disability benefits are approved. Worse yet, many of those claimants are actually entitled to receive benefits, but their applications contain errors or omissions, or some of the accompanying documents are not in order, which causes their case to be denied. There is an appeal process, but since more than two thirds of the cases end up there it’s very long and very slow. A Social Security Disability lawyer has the knowledge and the experience to complete all your application paperwork correctly the first time, so you won’t be part of the unfortunate majority that ends up waiting longer than necessary to get benefits.