Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency
Many individuals find it difficult to breathe. There are a number of conditions that can cause breathing problems. A common condition is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is “a group of lung diseases that block airflow and make breathing difficult.”
“Symptoms of COPD often don't appear until significant lung damage has occurred, and they usually worsen over time. Some symptoms include:
Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
Having to clear the throat first thing in the morning due to excess mucus in the lungs
A chronic cough that produces sputum that may be clear, white, yellow or greenish
Blueness of the lips or fingernail beds (cyanosis)
Frequent respiratory infections
Lack of energy
Unintended weight loss that occurs in the later stages of the disease
Individuals with emphysema and chronic bronchitis tend to suffer from COPD. “In the vast majority of cases, the lung damage that leads to COPD is caused by long-term cigarette smoking. Other irritants that can cause COPD include cigar smoke, secondhand smoke, pipe smoke, air pollution and workplace exposure to dust, smoke or fumes.”
Doctors use a number of tests to determine whether an individual has COPD. A pulmonary function test has an individual “blow into a large tube connected to a spirometer [that] measures how much air the lungs can hold and how fast an individual can blow the air out.”
Another test is the chest x-ray, which can show emphysema and help to “rule out other lung problems or heart failure.” A CT scan can also detect emphysema, as well as lung cancer. Additionally, an arterial blood gas analysis “measures how well the lungs are bringing oxygen into the blood and removing carbon dioxide.”
The first step in treating COPD is for the individual to stop smoking. Continued smoking will only lead to a worsening of COPD.
Doctors may prescribe a bronchodilator inhaler to “relax the muscles around the airways” allowing an individual to breath easier. “Inhaled corticosteroid medications can reduce airway inflammation and help prevent” symptoms from being exacerbated. There are also combination inhalers that contain both a bronchodilator and a corticosteroid. If a steroid inhaler is not enough, a doctor may prescribe oral steroids instead. There is a new type of medication called phosphodiesterase-4 inhibitors that “decreases airway inflammation and relaxes the airways.”
Additional therapies used on individuals with moderate to severe COPD include oxygen therapy and a pulmonary rehabilitation program. An individual receiving oxygen therapy will breathe supplemental oxygen from a tank through nose cannulas. Some tanks are lightweight enough to be portable. A pulmonary rehabilitation program “combine education, exercise training, nutrition advice and counseling [that may] increase an individual's ability to participate in everyday activities and improve their quality of life.”
Social Security Disability
As with all Social Security Disability applications, the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews the applicant's health records and the impact their health has on everyday activities. In is necessary to include documentation of pulmonary function testing both without use of a bronchodilator and after use of a bronchodilator.
SSD applications require extensive documentation on an applicant's medical condition. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.