Muscular Dystrophy Leading to Social Security Disability
Muscular dystrophy covers a group of genetic diseases that result in weakening of muscle fibers. This leads to the need for assistance to walk, pick things up, and sometimes even breathing. Depending on the type of muscular dystrophy will dictate when symptoms begin, which muscle groups are affected, and how fast the disease progresses. Symptoms Symptoms of muscular dystrophy can start out with frequent falls, trouble running and jumping, waddling gait, and learning disabilities. With Duchenne muscular dystrophy, these symptoms begin in early childhood and is most common in boys. Becker muscular dystrophy has similar symptoms, but they are milder and begin when an individual is in their mid-20's or later. There are other types of muscular dystrophy that are categorized according to the body part affected at the onset of specific symptoms. Causes “Hundreds of genes are involved in making proteins that protect muscle fibers from damage. Muscular dystrophy occurs when one of these genes is defective. Each form of muscular dystrophy is caused by a genetic mutation that's particular to that type of the disease. Many of these mutations are inherited, but some occur spontaneously in the mother's egg or the developing embryo.” Diagnosis Doctors will take a thorough medical history and perform a physical examination to determine if an individual has a muscular dystrophy. Blood samples may be taken to look for high levels of enzymes released from damaged muscles or examine an individual's genes for specific mutations. There is electromyography where an electrode needle is inserted into a muscle and the electrical activity is measured as the individual flexes and relaxes the muscle. A doctor may also perform a muscle biopsy to example the muscle tissue to determine if the individual has muscular dystrophy or another muscle disease. Treatments There is no cure for muscular dystrophy. Medications and therapy are used to slow the advancement of symptoms. Corticosteroids are used to improve muscle strength, but prolonged use can weaken bones. Range-of-motion exercises are used “to keep joints as flexible as possible”. Braces are used to provide not only support, but also to “help keep muscles and tendons stretched and flexible.” To assist with mobility, individuals use canes, walkers, and wheelchairs. For those individuals with breathing problems, a sleep apnea device may be used to deliver oxygen at night. If the lungs are severely impacted, then the individual may need to rely on a ventilator. Surgery is used in certain instances to address problems that occur from muscular dystrophy. Tendon surgery is used to loosen joints drawn in due to muscle contracts. Spinal surgery is used to straighten a curvature of the spine due to scoliosis to allow for better breathing. And sometimes it becomes necessary to insert a pacemaker in individuals whose heart muscle was weakened by muscular dystrophy. Social Security Disability To qualify for Social Security Disability, an individual with muscular dystrophy must show that they have great difficulty with their limbs due to paralysis or involuntary movements. In assessing this difficulty, the Social Security Administration looks at the degree to which the paralysis or involuntary movements interfere with the individual's locomotion or the use of their fingers, hands, and arms due to their muscular dystrophy. If you are considering applying for disability benefits, contact our experienced attorney to assist you.