Social Security Disability Due to Swelling From Lymphedema
An individual's leg or arm swells and the swelling will not abate. This could be lymphedema. “Lymphedema is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system. The blockage prevents lymph fluid from draining well, and as the fluid builds up, the swelling continues.” Symptoms Aside from swelling in a part of an arm or leg or the entire arm or leg, there can be: A feeling of heaviness or tightness in the affected limb, Restricted range of motion in the affected limb, Aching or discomfort in the affected limb, Recurring infections in the affected limb, and/or Hardening or thickening of the skin on the affected limb. Information from the Mayo Clinic Causes Lymphedema can occur on its own in an individual's body or due to another disease or condition. If lymphedema occurs on its own, it could be caused by: Milroy's disease where lymph nodes form abnormally. Meige's disease which is hereditary and causes lymph vessels to form without valves to keep fluid from flowing backward. This causes improper draining. Late-onset lymphedema occurs in individuals over 35 years old. Information from the Mayo Clinic If lymphedema is caused by another disease or condition, the possible causes are: Removal of lymph nodes from surgery, commonly from cancer treatments. Radiation from cancer treatment that damages lymph nodes or vessels. Cancer itself can block lymph nodes or vessels. Infection of lymph nodes from bacteria or parasites. Information from the Mayo Clinic Diagnosis A doctor will take a complete medical history to determine if there is another cause for the swelling other than lymphedema. Doctors use imaging techniques to determine what causes lymphedema if an immediate cause cannot be determined. Imaging processes used are MRIs, CT scans, ultrasounds, or radionuclide imaging of the lymphatic system. Treatments “There is no cure for lymphedema. Treatment focuses on reducing swelling and controlling the pain.” Light exercises are prescribed to encourage fluid movement out of the affected limb. Massage can be used to manually move fluid to healthy lymph nodes to affect drainage. Bandaging the affected limb with the bandaging being tightest near the fingers or toes and loosening towards the body can assist with lymphatic fluid movement. Instead of bandages, compression garments can be used to move lymphatic fluid, as well as prevent future swelling. Another method of treatment is pneumatic compression where a sleeve is placed over the affected limb and connected to a pump that inflates and deflates to move lymphatic fluid. “In cases of severe lymphedema, a doctor may consider surgery to remove excess tissue in the affected limb. While this reduces severe swelling, surgery cannot cure lymphedema.” Social Security Disability The Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews lymphedema as a problem of the cardiovascular system. Because lymphedema causes swelling, it is include with peripheral vascular disease and peripheral arterial disease. The SSA notes that lymphedema is not chronic venous insufficiency, but “it may medically equal the severity of” chronic venous insufficiency. Lymphedema is evaluated according to the underlying cause and whether that cause meets the requirements of a disability listing “or whether the lymphedema medically equals a cardiovascular listing.” If an individual's lymphedema does not fall within a listed disability category, then the SSA “will evaluate any functional limitations imposed by the lymphedema when [the SSA] assesses [an individual's] residual functional capacity.” 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.