Social Security Disability and Chronic Liver Disease
The liver is a vital organ. It is “about the size of a football, and sits just under the rib cage on the right side of the abdomen.” It produces bile that “breaks up fat into smaller pieces so it can be absorbed more easily in the small intestine.” The liver detoxifies blood, stores vitamins and iron, converts stored sugar to usable sugar, breaks down hemoglobin and insulin, and destroys old red blood cells. With all of these important functions, when the liver suffers due to a disease or condition, it is great cause for concern. Symptoms If a person has problems with their liver, some symptoms that may arise are: “discolored skin and eyes that appear yellowish; abdominal pain and swelling; itchy skin that doesn't seem to go away; dark urine color; pale stool color; chronic fatigue; nausea; or loss of appetite.” Causes There are a great number of diseases or problems that can cause chronic liver disease. Some diseases are alcohol hepatitis, bile duct obstruction, cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, Hepatitis A, B, C, D, or E, liver cyst, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or parasitic infection. Some factors that raise the risk for developing chronic liver disease are diabetes, heavy alcohol use, high levels of blood triglycerides, obesity, and working with chemicals or toxins without following safety precautions. The Mayo Clinic lists a number of herbal supplements that can be harmful to the liver. Some of these herbal supplements are black cohosh, chaparral, comfrey, germander, kava, mistletoe, and skullcap. Diagnosis To diagnose chronic liver disease, blood tests can be used to look for liver problems. CT scans, MRI scans and ultrasounds can be used to visualize the liver to see if there are problems. A doctor may also order a liver biopsy to remove a tissue sample to examine for problems. The biopsy is commonly done by needle. Treatments The cause of an individual's liver disease will dictate what type of treatment that individual may require. “Some problems can be treated with medications. Others may require surgery. A liver transplant may ultimately be required for liver problems that cause liver failure.” Social Security Disability The Social Security Administration (SSA) assesses chronic liver disease by “considering the severity and duration of [a person's symptoms] within the context of their prescribed treatment.” The reason for this assessment focus is because most “digestive disorders respond to medical or surgical treatment.” The SSA looks at inflammation or scarring of liver tissue and death of liver tissue that “persists for more than 6 months” no matter the cause. When looking at whether an individual with chronic liver disease will qualify for Social Security Disability (SSD), the cause of the liver damage is the starting point for the SSD assessment. An individual must submit multiple laboratory findings associated with the disease or condition that caused their liver damage. 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.