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Lyme Disease And Social Security Disability


Last year, a record 1,431 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease in Minnesota, and tick experts say 2014 could also have high numbers of tick-borne illnesses.

Tick season is underway in Minnesota, and tick experts say 2014 could see an unusually high number of tick-borne illnesses. The deep snow that blanketed Minnesota this winter may have helped deer ticks, also called black-legged ticks, survive. Because these are the ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, the Minnesota Health Department is warning that the risk of tick diseases is high this year.

Already, Minnesota is among the top 10 states for Lyme disease cases, according to the Lyme Disease Association Inc. Last year, a record 1,431 people were diagnosed with Lyme disease in Minnesota. Although it can often be treated with antibiotics, not everyone who contracts the disease makes a full recovery. These cases, sometimes called chronic Lyme disease, can result in debilitating medical impairments that leave people unable to work.

Symptoms Can Be Debilitating

Lyme disease is not an illness to take lightly. After being bitten by a deer tick, you may experience a red rash, sometimes referred to as a bulls-eye, within a few days of the bite. However, not everyone who contracts Lyme disease develops the red rash. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fatigue, chills, fever, headache, achy muscles and joints, and swollen lymph nodes are all among the early symptoms.

If left untreated, the infection may spread to other parts of the body and cause additional rashes, Bell’s palsy, severe headaches, shooting pains that can interfere with sleep and other symptoms. The CDC says that about 60 percent of patients with untreated Lyme disease may experience periodic arthritis that results in severe pain and swelling, especially in the knees. In 5 percent of untreated patients, chronic neurological problems may develop, including numbness and tingling in the extremities and short-term memory difficulties.

The CDC says that many people make a full recovery if Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics while in the early stages. But even when people are treated with antibiotics, in 10 to 20 percent of cases, they experience chronic, ongoing symptoms. The proper treatment and even the existence of this illness are debated by health care experts.

As a New Yorker article last year noted, some physicians believe that symptoms that occur after a standard course of antibiotics are psychological. Others believe that a cure could require months or years of strong antibiotics, and there is some debate about whether the symptoms could come from other causes or other tick-borne illnesses.

Obtaining Disability Benefits For Lyme Disease

Lyme disease symptoms can be disabling. If your chronic Lyme disease symptoms prevent you from working, disability benefits may be an option for you. But Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits can be difficult to obtain for Lyme disease. You must prove that you have a severe impairment using medically determinable evidence. Lyme disease does not have a single diagnostic tool, which means that an applicant must find another way to demonstrate the severity of their illness.

Lyme disease poses a second potential challenge because it is not on the Social Security Administration’s list of qualifying impairments. The list contains medical conditions that are so severe that Social Security will automatically consider you disabled. You may be able to show that your symptoms of Lyme disease and any other medical conditions are as severe as a medical condition on the list. If your medical condition does not equal an impairment on the list, you may be able to obtain benefits by showing that your medical condition prevents you from doing any kind of work.

If you are considering whether to apply for disability benefits, an experienced attorney can handle the initial application and any appeals necessary for your claim. While you do have the right to handle a disability claim on your own, an attorney is helpful, especially with a complex illness such as Lyme disease.

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