What is an Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease?
A connective tissue disease is a disease the affects the connective tissues of the body, the substances that connect and hold the cells of the body together. Examples of connective tissue are fat and cartilage. These connective tissues are found throughout the body and are vital to the shape and function of many of its parts.
There are many different kinds of connective tissue disease, but they are usually grouped into two different kinds based on what causes them.
Some connective tissue diseases are caused by specific genetic mutations inherited at birth, and affect specific body systems. Two examples of these are Marfan syndrome, which can cause defects in the heart, lungs, eyes, and bones, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is characterized by loose skin and joints.
The other much larger group of connective tissue diseases have no known cause, but are attributed to genetic flaws that cause the body’s immune system to attack its own tissues, causing inflammation and other complications. For this reason, many connective tissues are classified as autoimmune disorders. Examples are systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, polymyositis, and dermatomyositis. The symptoms of each of these are as follows:
- Systemic lupus is characterized by rashes on the face, ulcers of the mouth, fever, swelling in the linings of the heart and lungs, poor circulation, and other complications.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is characterized by fever, aches and pains, inflammation, redness, and pain in the joints during flare-ups of arthritis.
- Scleroderma is characterized by thick, hardened patches of skin that can be painful or restrict movement.
- Polymyositis is characterized by muscle weakness and atrophy.
- Dermatomyositis is characterized by raised skin rashes on the face, trunk, and knuckles, as well as muscle weakness.
All of these autoimmune types of connective tissue diseases present hallmark symptoms that are easily identifiable through their symptoms as well as blood tests that show the presence of particular antibodies and abnormalities. However, they may take years to develop in full force, if they ever do. Beginning and milder cases of these diseases are therefore not as easy to diagnose until they have progressed.
If a doctor is unsure of which connective tissue disease(s) are present because symptoms are not yet severe or clear enough, it will often label it as undifferentiated connective tissue disease. Later on, the disease may show clearer symptoms and blood test results so it can be precisely diagnosed. Sometimes milder undifferentiated cases clear up and never reach a point of diagnosis. On the other hand, if there are symptoms and blood test results present for more than one connective tissue disease, it is classified as a case of mixed connective tissue disease.
Can I File for Benefits with a Mixed Connective Tissue Disease Diagnosis?
If you are filing for Social Security Disability benefits because of an undifferentiated or mixed connective tissue disease, there are important guidelines to follow. The conditions and symptoms of your disease must qualify according to the SSA’s Blue Book specifications.
Undifferentiated and mixed connective tissue diseases are listed by the SSA as qualifying impairments under the category “Immune Disorders” in section 14 of the Blue Book.
To qualify for disability with this disease, you must have medical proof that your symptoms indicate either:
- Undifferentiated connective tissue disease – symptoms associated with connective tissue disease but not meeting the criteria for and therefore unable to be narrowed to one specific disease
- Mixed connective tissue disease – symptoms and blood tests that solidly indicate more than one type of connective tissue disease.
In addition to this, the SSA requires one of the following combination of symptoms and scenarios:
- Two or more areas of your body must be affected by the disease. At least one of these areas must show severe symptoms; additionally, you must show at least two symptoms of severe illness (fever, loss of weight, severe weakness,etc.).
- You must have frequent symptoms of the disease, at least two signs of severe illness, and prove that your condition disables you from performing daily tasks, and interacting with others while functioning mentally and physically to perform job tasks.
Your Undifferentiated and Mixed Connective Tissue Disease Disability Case
If you are suffering from a connective tissue disease that cannot yet be diagnosed or is complicated by symptoms and signs of many specific diseases, you may still be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income. These diseases react in this way often enough that medical professionals, as well as the SSA have recognized them as conditions. Just because they are mixed or undifferentiated does not mean that your connective tissue diseases are not severe enough to be disabling and qualify you for benefits.
Getting Help with your Application
Filing for disability benefits is often overwhelming and complicated, so you should consider retaining the services of an experienced Social Security Disability attorney or advocate to help you with your case. Simply fill out the form for a free case evaluation to discuss your claim with one of these professionals.