Primary Biliary Cirrhosis – Condition and Symptoms
The liver secretes bile, a bodily fluid that is essential for the body to digest fats. It also helps the body to rid itself of toxic substances, cholesterol, and worn-out red blood cells. The ducts that release bile can become damaged and destroyed, resulting in the accumulation of toxic substances in the liver, which in turn cause damage and scarring. This condition is known as Primary Biliary Cirrhosis.
It is unclear what causes the destruction of the bile ducts. There is evidence to suggest that it is the result of the body’s immune system attacking part of the body, but genetic and environmental causes appear to be a factor as well. The progression of the disease can be slowed, particularly with early diagnosis. PBC affects roughly 9 times more women than men.
Some of the symptoms of Primary Biliary Cirrhosis are:
- Itchy skin (also known as Pruritis). The cause for this condition is unknown. It may be worse at night, causing sleep disturbances and potentially depression.
- Jaundice, a yellowing of the skin and eyes resulting from increased bilirubin in the blood.
- Collections of cholesterol under the skin.
Complications from Primary Biliary Cirrhosis can include hypersplenism (enlargement of the spleen), hepatic encephalopathy (confusion or coma resulting from liver failure), and esophageal varices (varicose veins in the esophagus which can rupture). Later stage disease complications may include vitamin deficiencies, osteoporosis, and portal hypertension.
There is currently no cure for Primary Biliary Cirrhosis. Treatment is usually focused on managing symptoms and preventing complications. Ursodiol is a bile acid that is used to assist the movement of bile through the liver, and is considered to be the first-choice treatment. Other medications which have been tried have proven to have limited effectiveness and difficult side-effects. For those with advanced stage PBC, a liver transplant may be an option and has proven effective at extending life expectancies for those experiencing liver failure. However, recurrence is a possibility post-surgically.
Filing for Social Security Disability with a Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Diagnosis
Primary Biliary Cirrhosis has been determined by the Social Security Administration to fit the criteria for Social Security Disability benefits under the criteria listed in its impairment listing manual, better known as the “Blue Book”. What follows is a list of the diagnostic criteria that must be met in order to be approved for disability benefits:
- Hemorrhaging from varices or from portal hypertensive gastropathy (disease of the stomach from high blood pressure in the stomach arteries) resulting in unstable blood pressure and requiring hospitalization for transfusion of at least 2 units of blood, or one of the following:
- Accumulation of fluid in the abdominal or pleural cavities which cannot be attributed to other causes in spite of continuing treatment, present on at least 2 occasions at least 60 days apart during a 6 month period, or
- Spontaneous bacterial peritonitis (infection of the lining of the abdominal cavity) of a pre-determined severity, or
- Hepatorenal syndrome (failure of the kidneys due to liver disease), or
- Hepatic encephalopathy of a pre-determined severity, or
- End-stage liver disease of a pre-determined severity.
Your Primary Biliary Cirrhosis Disability Case
If you are disabled because of health problems related to Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, you may well be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits. As you can see by looking at the above list, there are a lot of diagnostic criteria that need to be satisfied and documented. Because of the complexities involved with this diagnosis, it is strongly recommended that you seek the services of a Social Security Disability attorney.
Gathering the documentation necessary to prove that you are legitimately disabled can be a formidable task, especially when the guidelines are as stringent as those listed above. An experienced Social Security Disability attorney is familiar with all of the medical terminology, and also understands how the application process functions; working in concert with your medical team, your Social Security Attorney can coordinate all of the necessary paperwork to make sure your case goes as smoothly as possible.
Approximately 7 of every 10 applicants are denied disability on the first attempt. For those who decide to pursue the case further, the next step is to appeal the initial decision. After the appeal hearing, it may be necessary to submit additional paperwork, after which another hearing will be scheduled. It is not surprising that some abandon the process altogether out of frustration. Worse yet, some people simply don’t survive long enough to see their cases resolved. It doesn’t have to be that way.
If you have been diagnosed with Primary Biliary Cirrhosis, you’re likely already dealing with enough stress in your life. With a qualified Social Security Disability attorney in your corner, your disability case can be a source of comfort instead of a source of additional stress.