Have Questions About SSDI and SSI? Check Out Our FAQs

Dealing with Social Security Disability always comes with plenty of questions. Here are some of the questions we hear the most at our Omaha law firm.

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  • Cirrhosis: Your Questions Answered

    Cirrhosis is classified as a liver disease. Patients with liver disease rarely exhibit symptoms; thus, this illness is often referred to as a “silent” condition. After someone suffers long-term damage to this critical organ, the liver’s healthy tissue is replaced by scar tissue, and the liver can no longer perform its important functions such as fighting infections, filtering toxins, assisting in the body’s digestion of significant nutrients, and blood clotting.

    If you’re unable to work due to cirrhosis, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Listed in section 5.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, chronic liver disease can be disabling, but it may be difficult to obtain benefits for this disease. An experienced Social Security (SS) attorney can help ensure you meet the criteria and submit a successful claim.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Cirrhosisdoc_and_patient

    When you’re diagnosed with a serious disease like cirrhosis, you need information about how this condition will affect your life and how to move forward.

    Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about it.

    How is cirrhosis diagnosed?

    Doctors may diagnose cirrhosis by evaluating any symptoms you may have, ordering blood tests, evaluating your medical history, and giving you a physical exam. However, the only way to definitively diagnose this condition is by having a liver biopsy. A doctor performs this biopsy by removing a liver tissue sample and analyzing it under a microscope. This test is the only one that confirms a patient has cirrhosis.

    How does alcohol affect the liver?

    Some people believe the type of alcohol consumed is the most critical factor in developing liver disease. However, the biggest risk factor is the amount you drink and the length of time you’ve been drinking. In fact, any amount of consumed alcohol can damage the liver. According to The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking means one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.

    Can liver damage be reversed?

    The liver is the only organ in the body that can regenerate. It can replace damaged tissue with new cells. Even if the patient experiences extreme liver damage and up to 50–60 percent of the cells are killed within a three or four day period, the liver can still repair itself completely if there aren't additional complications.

    But regeneration is impeded or prevented if scar tissue continues to develop. This occurs if the agent that damages the liver such as a drug, a virus, or alcohol continues to attack it. Cirrhosis is the severe scarring of the liver and is usually part of late stage liver disease. Once the patient experiences scar tissue, it’s difficult to reverse the process.

    We Can Help

    If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits, but it’s important to work with an experienced SS attorney who can help determine if you meet a listing in the Blue Book. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can assist you with the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.

     

  • What types of treatment can I expect for my cirrhosis symptoms?

    cirrhosisCirrhosis is categorized as chronic liver disease. This condition develops when the liver has sustained long-term damage, is replaced by scar tissue, and no longer functions the way it’s supposed to. Because the liver is a critical organ that helps fight infections, filter toxins from the blood, digest certain nutrients, and store energy, damage to this organ can be quite serious, sometimes leading to liver cancer.

    Liver disease and cirrhosis are the 7th leading cause of death in American adults between the ages of 25 and 64. 
     

    If your cirrhosis interferes with your ability to work, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, because it’s not easy to obtain benefits for this condition, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) attorney to ease you through the application process and help ensure a successful claim.

    Symptoms of Liver Cirrhosis

    In the early stages of cirrhosis, many people have no symptoms of the disease. Symptoms are usually caused by the liver’s failure to perform its normal functions and/or scarring that distorts the liver’s shape and size. Patients suffering from cirrhosis often experience the following symptoms:

    • Fatigue and exhaustion
    • Overall weakness
    • Weight loss due to loss of appetite
    • Nausea
    • Loss of sex drive

    These symptoms may not occur until a patient has complications of the condition. These complications include:

    • Fluid retention that causes weight gain
    • Edema—swelling in the legs and angles due to fluid retention
    • Problems breathing due to fluid retention
    • Abdominal pain caused by gallstones or the enlargement of the liver
    • Abdominal bloating or swelling caused by fluid retention
    • Fever, vomiting, and diarrhea
    • Jaundice
    • Easy bruising and bleeding from the nose or gums caused by problems with blood clotting

    Treatment for Cirrhosis

    Because cirrhosis is a disease that can’t be cured, treatment focuses on managing symptoms, dealing with complications, and ensuring the condition doesn’t get worse. Treatment for these things includes:

    • Making lifestyle changes. Avoid alcohol, lose weight, exercise, and ensure good hygiene to reduce infections.
    • Making dietary changes. Because patients with cirrhosis can become malnourished, it’s important that they eat a balanced diet filled with critical nutrients. Additionally, it’s essential to reduce salt intake to help decrease fluid build-up.
    • Taking medications. Depending on the type of damage your liver has sustained, you may need certain prescription medications to help with infections and other complications. Additionally, your doctor may recommend that you take a diuretic to decrease the fluid in your system.

    Cuddigan Law Can Help

    If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA Blue Book, or your condition could be evaluated under the agency's residual functional capacity. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on the application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.

     

  • Pancreatitis: Answering Your Questions

    Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas—the flat, long gland located between the stomach and the duodenum, which is the first section of the small intestine. The body needs the pancreas to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins and does so by sending digestive enzymes into the small intestine. The pancreas also releases insulin and glucagon into the blood to help control blood sugar levels.

    In patients experiencing pancreatitis, their digestive enzymes have been activated too soon and start to attack the pancreas.

    pancreasIf you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, it’s helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    Frequently asked questions about pancreatitis include why it happens, if there are dietary restrictions, and if there are further
    complications as a result of the disease.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with pancreatitis, here's what you should know.

    Why does someone develop chronic pancreatitis?

    The progressive inflammatory process in the pancreas can cause chronic pancreatitis. This type of pancreatitis will cause scar tissue, calcifications or stones due to calcium deposits, and a dilated pancreatic duct.

    When patients experience frequent bouts of pancreatitis, drink alcohol, and/or have high calcium levels in the blood, they can develop chronic pancreatitis. It’s also a hereditary condition and one that’s common if there are high fat levels in the blood. People with chronic pancreatitis are more likely to develop diabetes.

    What type of diet should I follow if I have pancreatitis?

    If you’ve experienced acute or chronic pancreatitis, your pancreas needs time to rest and get healthy again. Immediately, you should stop drinking alcohol and eat a diet low in fat. Staying hydrated is also important. Certain foods can help protect your digestive organs and provide a better diet for those suffering from pancreatitis.

    These include:

    • Blueberries, whole grains, cherries, and spinach
    • Lean meats and clear soups—foods easier for your pancreas to process
    • Fruits instead of sugary sweets, because patients with pancreatitis are at a high risk to develop diabetes
    • Cherry tomatoes, hummus, and cucumbers
    • Wild Alaskan salmon, sardines

    Foods to limit or avoid:

    • Fried foods
    • Chips and fries
    • Margarine, butter, and mayonnaise
    • Drinks with added sugar
    • Red meat and organ meat

    Can pancreatitis be fatal?

    Yes. Pancreatitis can create many health complications that may affect other organs. If these complications aren’t treated, they can be fatal. These complications include:

    • Kidney failure
    • Diabetes
    • Pancreatic cancer
    • Pseudocyst
    • Internal infections
    • Malnutrition

    We Can Help

    If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet a listing in the SSA's Blue Book of Impairments.

    Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim.

     

  • What type of treatment can I expect for my HD symptoms?

    Patients who suffer from Huntington disease, also known as Huntington chorea and Huntington’s disease, experience a variety of symptoms that can initially be unsettling but manageable. Then eventually, they interfere with daily life and the ability to work. This inherited disease causes the progressive degeneration of the brain’s nerve cells due to a gene mutation.

    When you’ve been diagnosed with HD, it’s possible you’ll qualify for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Because the SSA lists HD as a neurological disorder in section 11.17 of its Blue Book, submitting a winning claim may be easier for this disease than for others. However, because filing for disability can be complicated and sometimes frustrating, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you with your claim.

    consult_with_doctorHD Symptoms

    The symptoms of HD typically come on in stages. At each stage, patients tend to lose physical and cognitive skills they once had.

    Here's a brief overview of the symptoms HD patients may experience:


    Early-Stage Symptoms

    When people begin to experience early signs of HD, their symptoms may include some of the following:

    • Fidgeting, restlessness, and minor twitching in the toes and fingers
    • Occasional clumsiness
    • Minor changes in handwriting
    • Small difficulties in managing daily activities such as driving

    Physical signs of HD may not be the only symptoms. Ambiguous and indistinct emotional and intellectual changes may occur as well, including:

    • Reduced ability to handle new situations or stay organized
    • Small periods of depression, irritability, or indifference
    • Moments of impulsiveness
    • Short-term loss of memory

    It’s important to note that just because a person feels depressed or can’t remember a name or number doesn’t mean he has HD. These symptoms can happen to anyone for any reason, and it doesn’t mean that the person has the mutated HD gene. 

    Middle-Stage Symptoms

    When HD patients move into the middle stage of their condition, they might lose the ability to work and drive entirely. It may become difficult, if not impossible, to manage a daily routine and perform household chores. Additionally, they may experience:

    • Challenges when swallowing and eating
    • Slurred speech
    • Staggered walking
    • More severe motor symptoms

    At this point, patients are often still able to dress and care for themselves with some assistance. With the help of physical therapists, patients are still able to control body movements, and speech pathologists can help them with their speech and swallowing issues. Patients may also see an occupational therapist to help handle thought changes.

    Late-Stage Symptoms

    When patients reach the later stage of HD, they typically need assistance in all areas of their life. Because they're usually bedridden and unable to speak, they often need to be in a care facility because the progressiveness of the disease makes it difficult for family members to care for them.

    Symptoms can include:

    • Choking, as it becomes difficult for patients to swallow
    • Inability to eat, which requires that many patients have a feeding tube
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Auditory and visual hallucinations in 3–11 percent of HD patients

    Treatment for HD

    Because HD is an incurable condition, medication and treatment focus on reducing the symptoms of the disease. Here's a brief look at the types of treatment for HD:

    • Movement disorders. Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2008, tetrabenazine (xenazine) is used to reduce the jerky body movements—also known as chorea—associated with HD. However, this drug can trigger depression or make it worse. Other side effects include nausea and drowsiness. Other antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine and haloperidol, can also suppress the choreic movements and may be helpful in treating and managing chorea. However, they may increase muscle contractions and rigidity. Additionally, amantadine and clonazepam can help suppress chorea; however, if amantadine is used in high doses, it can cause skin discoloration and leg swelling.
    • Psychiatric disorders. Antidepressants such as citalopram, fluoxetine, and sertraline may be helpful for HD patients experiencing depression. For individuals who experience mood disorders or psychosis or have violent outbursts, antipsychotic drugs may be used such as quetiapine and risperidone. And some patients may be given mood stabilizers.
    • Speech therapy. Because HD interferes with muscle control of the throat and mouth, it’s often difficult for patients to speak, eat, and swallow. A speech therapist can help patients speak more clearly or provide communication devices to help with conversation.
    • Physical therapy. Because balance and coordination can be challenging for HD patients, a physical therapist can show them exercises to improve their strength and flexibility, help them stay mobile as long as they can, and decrease the risk of falling. If a patient needs a wheelchair or other assistive device, a physical therapist can provide instruction for how to use it.
    • Occupational therapy. An occupational therapist can provide caregivers with information on appropriate assistive devices and strategies for patient care such as home handrails and helpful devices for eating and drinking.

    Call Cuddigan Law

    If you’ve been diagnosed with HD, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. However, an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet the SSA Blue Book Listing for this condition, or qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program.

    Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. We also handle disability claims for those whose applications have been denied and need help with the appeals process.  

     

  • Huntington Disease: Your Questions Answered

    A fatal genetic disorder, Huntington disease (HD), also called Huntington chorea and Huntington’s disease, causes the nerve cells in the brain to progressively break down and die. HD affects the caudate, the putamen, and ultimately, the cerebral cortex.

    As the brain cells in these areas die, patients suffering from HD are less able to control their emotions and movements, and they have more difficulty making decisions and remembering recent events.

    If you’ve been diagnosed with HD, obtaining disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA) may be easier than for other conditions. The SSA categories HD as a neurological disorder in section 11.17 in its Listing of Impairments, and includes HD in its Compassionate Allowance Program that expedites terminal illnesses. However Social Secuirty often fails to recognize the severity of the symptoms and initially denies individuals 

    However, it’s still helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim or appeal.all_about_huntington

    Frequently Asked Questions

    If you’ve been diagnosed with HD, it’s likely that you have many questions about how this condition will affect your life and what you can do to manage it. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about HD.

    What kind of symptoms will I have if I’m diagnosed with HD?

    Each person with the disease experiences symptoms differently. However, doctors find the earlier the symptoms appear in a patient, the more quickly the disease will progress. In the early phase of HD, friends and family members may first see mood swings, irritability, apathy, depression, or anger in an individual suffering from the condition. It’s possible these symptoms will continue, but some patients see them decrease with progression of the disease. Additionally, a patient may experience trouble driving, answering questions, making decisions, or learning something new.

    For some people, the disease begins with uncontrolled movements in the face, fingers, trunk, or feet, which is a sign of chorea, and can increase if the patient feels anxiety. Also, HD can start by a patient experiencing problems with balance and may display a level of clumsiness. With the progression of the disease, a patient may have trouble concentrating on intellectual tasks; may stumble or act uncoordinated; may have difficulty walking; and may be more likely to fall. Eventually, HD can cause slurred speech and the decline of important body functions such as speaking, eating, and swallowing.

    Is there a test to determine if I have HD?

    In the past, genetic testing was used to diagnose HD. However, in 1993, a blood test was developed to determine if people at-risk for the disease or who have HD-like symptoms have the gene that causes HD. Because there is no treatment that can prevent the development of HD if the gene is present, many of those at risk for the disease choose not to have the blood test.

    Other at-risk patients who want to plan ahead for their careers and families make the choice to be tested. Many doctors advise that a patient who considers taking the blood test undergo genetic counseling to ensure he understands the possible results and to discuss if taking the test is the right move.

    What kind of treatment is available for HD?

    While there is no cure for HD or a way to reverse the disease, there are a variety of medications that doctors use to help control the movement problems patients experience, as well as their emotional issues.

    In 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first U.S. drug to treat HD—tetrabenazine. Additionally, haloperidol—an antipsychotic drug—and other drugs such as clonazepam may be prescribed to help decrease choreic movements, hallucinations, and violent outbursts.

    If a patient experiences depression, doctors may prescribe nortriptyline, fluoxetine, or sertraline. And tranquilizers can be used to help manage anxiety. But it’s important to note that many of these drugs used to treat HD symptoms have side effects that make it difficult to determine if a symptom is being caused by the disease or is a result of the medication.

    We Can Help

    If you have HD, it’s possible that you qualify for disability benefits from the SSA. If you were previously denied benefits for this disease, it’s important that you file an appeal.

    Hiring an experienced SS attorney who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application is the best way to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. Contact Cuddigan Law at (402) 933-5405 to help you get the disability support you need and deserve to address this debilitating disease. 

     

  • What type of symptoms and treatment can I expect after being diagnosed with pancreatitis?

    Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas—a long, flat gland located deep in the abdomen. Part of the pancreas is wedged between the stomach and spine, and the other part is near the curve of the duodenum, which is the first part of the small intestine.

    The pancreas is an important organ in the body and part of the digestive system that helps it to digest carbohydrates, fats, and proteins by secreting digestive enzymes into the small intestine. It also releases insulin and glucagon into the body’s bloodstream to help control blood sugar levels.

    When a patient suffers from pancreatitis, the pancreas is inflamed because the digestive enzymes are activated too soon and start to attack the organ. If the pancreatitis is severe, there can be bleeding, serious tissue damage, infection, and fluid buildup. Serious cases can result in damage to other important organs such as the kidneys, lungs, and heart.

    pancreatitisAccording to The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, over 500,000 people were hospitalized due to pancreatitis in 2010, and nearly 3,500 people died. The most common causes of pancreatitis are gallstones and extreme alcohol use. Sometimes, however, the cause of this condition can’t be determined.

    If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

    However, it’s not easy to prove your condition makes it impossible for you to work, or has disabled you completely. Because obtaining disability benefits can be challenging, it’s helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to help you file your claim.

    Symptoms of Pancreatitis

    There are two types of pancreatitis—acute and chronic. The symptoms can be different for each type. Here's a brief look at the symptoms for both acute and chronic pancreatitis:

    Acute Pancreatitis

    When patients suffer acute pancreatitis, their pancreas is inflamed, and there can be tissue damage, swelling, and also:

    • Severe upper abdominal pain. This pain radiates into the back, and can occur suddenly, or patients may experience a gradual pain that gets worse over time. Typically, the pain continues for several days, and the pain may increase after the patient eats, especially if he eats foods high in fat, or if he lies flat on his back.
    • Fever and nausea. Patients with acute pancreatitis may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, and nausea. And while some patients may vomit, it won't relieve the pain they feel.
    • Swollen abdomen. Many patients experience a swollen abdomen that is tender when touched.
    • Rapid pulse. This may be caused by the patient’s fever, dehydration because the patient isn’t able to eat, or internal bleeding.

    Chronic Pancreatitis

    Chronic pancreatitis is a long-term condition that interferes with your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and digest food. This condition doesn’t improve with time. The damage chronic pancreatitis causes is most often permanent, and the pancreas stops functioning. However, the symptoms and pain can usually be managed with the right kind of treatment.

    Symptoms of chronic pancreatitis include:

    • Upper abdomen pain
    • Weight loss for no apparent reason
    • Extreme exhaustion and thirst
    • Diarrhea
    • Fatty, loose stools
    • Shortness of breath

    As chronic pancreatitis progresses, the patient may experience more extreme symptoms, including:

    • Jaundice, which can present as yellowish eye discoloration
    • Blockage in the intestine
    • Internal bleeding
    • Pancreatic fluids inside the abdomen

    Patients with chronic pancreatitis may suffer painful episodes that go on for hours or days, and some find that any type of liquid or food increases the pain. It’s possible for the pain to be ongoing.

    Treatment for Pancreatitis

    When you’re admitted to the hospital for pancreatitis, doctors will have you fast for a few days to allow your pancreas some time to recover. After the swelling and inflammation have decreased, you may be allowed to eat bland food and clear liquids before getting back to a regular diet.

    However, if the pain continues when you eat, a physician may recommend a feeding tube to allow your body to get the nutrients it needs until you feel better.

    Other treatment includes:

    • Intravenous fluids. It’s possible to become dehydrated when you have pancreatitis. So, your doctor will likely give you additional fluids intravenously.
    • Medication for pain. Because pancreatitis is an extremely painful condition, your doctor will provide medication until your pain is under control.

    After doctors have your pancreatitis controlled, they’ll treat the cause of your condition, which can include procedures to remove obstructions in the bile duct, pancreas surgery, gallbladder surgery, or treatment for alcohol dependence.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’ve been diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis, you may qualify for SS disability benefits, and it’s important to hire an experienced SS attorney to help determine if your condition meets a listing in the SSA Blue Book or if your condition prevents you from performing your past work or any other work.

    Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. 

     

  • Ataxia: Your Questions Answered

    Ataxia is not a specific disease or diagnosis; rather, it’s a sign of an underlying serious medical issue. The primary symptom of patients who suffer ataxia is a lack of muscle coordination, and this can impact any type of mobility that requires your muscles to cooperate when attempting to accomplish a function.

    If your ataxia has left you unable perform daily tasks and/or work, you may be eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Certain types of ataxia qualify and are listed in the SSA Blue Book listing of impairments, section 11.17. However, it’s still helpful to hire an experienced Social Security (SS) disability attorney to assist you with your claim.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Ataxia

    ataxia_faqPatients diagnosed with this ataxia often have many questions about how the condition will affect their lives and how to move forward. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about this condition.

    What’s the difference between hereditary ataxias and acquired ataxias?

    Hereditary ataxias occur because of a gene mutation passed along through families. Acquired ataxias can have a variety of possible causes, including:

    • Conditions that disrupt the blood supply to the brain, such as a stroke or hemorrhage
    • Traumatic brain injury
    • Bacterial brain infection, including encephalitis or meningitis
    • Viral infections that spread to the brain, including measles or chickenpox—although this is rare
    • Cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis
    • Long-term misuse of alcohol

    Are there dietary changes I can make to improve my ataxia?

    There are dietary guidelines developed to help reduce the severity of ataxia symptoms; increase the patient’s feeling of control and management of the condition; and reduce reliance on medications that can be difficult to tolerate.

    However, it’s important to discuss any changes you make to your diet with your neurologist and nutritionist. These guidelines aren't a cure for ataxia and don't resolve individual symptoms, nor have they been proven to help all types of ataxia. But sound nutrition can promote a healthier lifestyle and a healthy body weight, which can help lower the stress on the joints and improve mobility. Good nutrition can also increase a patient’s energy and reduce fatigue, as well as increase his spirit and mood.

    Here's a brief look at some diet tips that might be helpful for ataxia patients:

    • Patients who suffer from ataxia often crave sugar and carbohydrates to help them with depression and exhaustion. But they may find it beneficial to avoid foods with sugar and simple carbohydrates all together. Foods containing these ingredients, including cookies, cakes, fruit juices, and pastries, can actually cause fatigue and depression instead of relieve them. Eating foods with protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates and avoiding diet sodas and drinks with sugar and artificial sweeteners is recommended.
    • Foods with extra fiber can be beneficial for patients who suffer from ataxia.
    • Avoiding certain foods may help ataxia patients with dizziness and an improved sense of balance. While each patient is different and may not experience a positive result, here are some foods that, if avoided, might reduce patient dizziness and balance:
      • Foods containing aspartame
      • Chocolate
      • Foods with monosodium glutamate (MSG)
      • Raw onions, although the patient might tolerate cooked onions
      • Foods with sulfites, such as figs, dates, and dried foods, including raisins
      • Foods with nitrates and nitrites, including hot dogs, ham, and sausage/bacon

    How is ataxia diagnosed?

    When you’re diagnosed with ataxia, your doctor will look for the cause of your condition. He will likely perform both a physical and neurological exam, and check your vision, hearing, balance, reflexes, and concentration. He might also request the following tests:

    • Genetic testing. If your doctor recommends genetic testing, it may help determine whether you have the mutated gene that causes certain hereditary ataxias. These genetic tests are available for some but not all of these types of ataxias.
    • Imaging. Your doctor might order an MRI or a CT scan to help learn a potential cause. For patients with ataxia, an MRI can sometimes show that the cerebellum and other parts of the brain are shrinking. This type of test can also show pressure on the cerebellum due to a benign tumor or blood clot.
    • Spinal tap. A doctor may remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid through a lumbar puncture—also known as a spinal tap. This fluid protects your spinal cord and brain, and will be sent to a lab to help with a diagnosis.

    Additionally, a doctor may look at whether there are neurological problems in your family history, if you’ve been exposed to toxins, and perform blood tests. Finding the cause is important in patients with ataxia because it may show a reversible cause of cerebellar disorder such as a deficiency in vitamin E. 

    We Can Help

    If you’ve been diagnosed with ataxia, you may qualify for SS disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet the SS Blue Book Listing for this condition or qualify on the basis of not being able to perform your past work or any other work in the national economy.

    Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. 

     

  • After being diagnosed with ataxia, what kinds of symptoms and treatment can I expect?

    When patients are diagnosed with ataxia, they're suffering from a rare degenerative, neurological condition that affects the body’s nervous system. The word ataxia is Greek in origin and means “a taxis”—without order or incoordination.

    Patients with ataxia have difficulty with coordination because the part of the brain that controls balance and movement—the cerebellum—is impacted by this condition. Those who develop ataxia may appear to be intoxicated or drunk because they exhibit the similar symptoms such as slurred speech, uncoordinated movements, and stumbling or falling.

    ataxia_diagnosisCertain types of ataxia are eligible for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Friedreich’s ataxia and spinocerebellar ataxia are identified in the Blue Book listing of impairments, section 11.17, and three types of ataxia are cited for the SSA’s Compassionate Allowance Program that expedites severe, terminal illnesses. How ever many times Social Security fails to properly evaluate  your claim and it’s s helpful to hire an experienced a Social Security (SS) disability attorney .

    Three Types of Ataxia

    There are between 50 and 100 types of ataxia, and they’re categorized under three umbrella headings:

    • Acquired ataxia. Patients who have this condition see their symptoms develop quickly. Often, this type of ataxia is caused by a brain injury, a stroke, or some other condition that impacts the brain areas that manage coordination, balance, and movement.
    • Hereditary ataxia. This type is inherited genetically and runs in families. Patients may see their symptoms develop at a slow pace over a period of years.
    • Idiopathic late onset Cerebellar ataxia (ILOA). The cerebellum in patients who suffer this type of ataxia is progressively damaged, but the cause is not known. This damage leads to ataxia.

    Symptoms of Ataxia

    Patients with ataxia suffer a variety of symptoms, and they vary depending on how severe the condition is. If the ataxia develops because of a head injury or some other type of medical issue, patient symptoms can present soon after, might improve quickly, and could eventually resolve.

    Initially, ataxia symptoms often include slow and/or slurred speech—known as dysarthria. A patient may have problems controlling the pitch, rhythm, and volume of his voice. Another early symptom is poor coordination of limbs.

    When the ataxia progresses, a patient is likely to experience other types of symptoms, including:

    • Difficulty swallowing, which sometimes leads to coughing or choking
    • Involuntary shaking or trembling, and tremors
    • Repetitive eye movements that are involuntary and rapid—known as nystagmus, these movements can be circular, horizontal, or vertical
    • Depression
    • Issues with balance and walking—sometimes a patient needs a wheelchair
    • Vision and hearing problems

    Additionally, patients who suffer from ataxia telangiectasia (AT) often experience red, spider-like veins in the corners of the eyes, on the cheeks, and on the ears. And those who suffer from Friedreich’s ataxia may experience scoliosis—curvature of the spine; diabetes; pes cavus—high arching feet; and cardiomyopathy.

    Treating Ataxia 

    The treatment plan for ataxia varies depending on the type of condition a patient has. Sometimes, it’s possible for doctors to treat the cause of the ataxia so it stops getting worse and even improves. This is often seen in cases when chicken pox or viral infections are the cause. However, more often, treatment is provided to ease a patient’s symptoms.

    You’ll likely work with a team of doctors to develop an individualized treatment plan. This team may include a physiotherapist, a neurologist, and a specialist nurse. Together, you’ll discuss your psychological, social, and physical needs and define a plan to meet them.

    In treating your symptoms, you may meet with a language and speech therapist to help with slurred speech and dysphagia, or swallowing problems. You may also see an occupational therapist (OT) who will assist you in managing the loss of mobility and learning new skills to help you perform your daily routine. If you need to use a wheelchair, the OT will teach you how to use this device to stay mobile. Additionally, a physiotherapist can teach you exercises to stretch your muscles and help them from weakening or getting stuck in a certain position. Sometimes, your doctor may prescribe muscle relaxers to control muscle cramps, spasms, and stiffness.

    Contact Cuddigan Law

    If you’ve been diagnosed with ataxia, you may qualify for Social Security (SS) disability benefits. Hiring an experienced SS attorney can help determine if you meet the Blue Book Listing for this condition, or qualify for the Compassionate Allowance Program. Contact the attorneys at Cuddigan Law, who can help you understand the process and work with you on your application  or appeal to increase your chances of getting an approved claim. 

     

  • What should I know about my diagnosis of Crohn’s disease?

    doctor_consultCrohn’s disease is a condition that falls under the inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) umbrella of illnesses. It’s characterized by the inflammation of the bowel and/or any other part of the gastrointestinal, or GI, tract.

    Because Crohn’s can be debilitating, people diagnosed with this disease may have many questions about how to manage their symptoms and how to move forward with their lives.

    Crohn’s is listed under IBD 5.06 of the Digestive System section of the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Blue Book of impairments. And because it’s not always easy to obtain disability benefits for this disease, it’s helpful to hire a Social Security (SS) disability attorney to step you through the process.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Crohn’s Disease

    1. Is there a cure for Crohn’s? While there is no known cure for Crohn’s disease, there are lifestyle changes and medications to help mitigate the symptoms of this condition. A critical focus for reducing these symptoms is to reduce bowel inflammation, and treatment can sometimes be effective in bringing the disease into long-term remission. There are two general approaches to treating this disease:
    • The “step-up” approach. When using this approach, a doctor begins by treating the patient with mild drugs and then slowly increasing the doses as needed.
    • The “top-down” approach. If a doctor takes this approach, she’ll start treating the patient with stronger drugs and then slowly decrease the dosage as the patient’s symptoms improve.

    Patients may be given immunosuppressants and steroids to slow the progression of Crohn’s, and if they don’t work, it’s possible that a doctor may recommend surgery.

    1. Can I smoke if I have Crohn’s disease? Research shows that symptoms in Crohn’s patients who smoke may be more severe, and smoking may increase complications of this condition. Additionally, smoking may increase the need for patients to be treated with higher doses of medications and steroids, as well as putting them a higher risk for surgery. When patients decrease or quit smoking, their flare-ups and risk of complications are often reduced.

    Research also indicates other risks associated with cigarette smoking, including:

    • Smoking may be linked to the onset of Crohn’s.
    • Smoking may be linked to a patient’s more frequent relapses.
    • Smoking may be linked to a patient’s poor outcomes after surgery is performed to repair the bowel or other portion of the GI tract.
    • Smoking may be linked to a reduced response to medications.
    1. Should I stop taking my medication if I’m pregnant? It’s not true that you need to stop drug treatment when you’re pregnant, although it’s always important to talk with your doctor about the best way to manage your medication when you’re having a baby. According to an August 2012 study of over 1,100 women published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology, babies born to women taking medication for their IBD didn’t have an above average rate of infections or congenital anomalies.

    However, if you’re going to get pregnant and your Crohn’s isn’t well controlled, you may face a higher risk for complications. Additionally, you may want to see an obstetrician who specializes in high-risk pregnancies.

    1. Is there a diet that can help my Crohn’s symptoms? Doctors understand that a person’s diet doesn't cause Crohn’s disease. And while there’s no known link between eating certain foods and Crohn’s, it is known that some foods can irritate a patient’s flare-ups. Thus, making modifications to your diet can help decrease the symptoms of Crohn’s.

    If your Crohn’s makes it difficult for you to absorb nutrients, doctors may recommend a high-calorie, high-protein diet—a regimen you should follow even if you’re not hungry.

    Foods that trigger Crohn’s symptoms are different for every patient, and it can be helpful to know which foods trigger yours. Many people who suffer from this disease find that some of the foods on the following list may aggravate their symptoms during a flare-up:

    • Tea and coffee
    • Fatty and fried foods
    • High-fiber foods
    • All alcohol, including mixed drinks
    • Raw fruits and vegetables
    • Foods that are spicy
    • Nuts, seeds, whole grains, bran
    • Lentils, beans, cabbage, broccoli, onions

    Some research indicates that alcohol consumption in moderation doesn’t harm people suffering from Crohn’s—one drink a day for women and two for men is usually acceptable. It’s also possible that moderate alcohol consumption may have benefits, because alcohol slightly suppresses the immune system. However, heavy drinking is never recommended and can lead to flare-ups.

    When You Need Disability for Crohn’s

    If you suffer from Crohn’s disease and need SS benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law can answer your questions and help you with the application process. We also handle SS disability claims for clients who need assistance with the appeals process if their claims were denied. Contact us by phone at (402) 933-5405, or fill out our online form.

     

  • What causes Crohn’s disease, and how is it treated?

    crohn's_disease_diagnosisCrohn’s disease is a condition that can affect any portion of the GI tract and is characterized by inflammation of the bowel. Patients who suffer from Crohn’s disease can experience mild to severe symptoms including cramping and abdominal pain, fever, appetite loss, rectal bleeding, and ongoing diarrhea. Complications from these symptoms can include abscesses and intestinal blockages.
     

    The Social Security Administration (SSA) recognizes Crohn’s disease in its Blue Book listing of impairments in the Digestive System section, under Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) 5.06. But although Crohn’s is a disorder eligible for disability, getting a claim approved for this disease can be a challenge. It can be helpful to hire a Social Security (SS) disability lawyer to take you through the claims process and advocate on your behalf.

    What Causes Crohn’s Disease?

    Researchers don't fully understand the causes of Crohn’s. It’s believed that stress and a patient’s diet can provoke and irritate the condition, but neither causes the disease. Current research indicates that contributing factors may include:

    • Genetics. In a GI tract that functions normally, there are types of non-dangerous bacteria that help with digestion. But in patients with IBD, the body’s immune system mistakes the bacteria as “harmful invaders” and responds by sending cells to the intestines and producing inflammation. Ultimately, this inflammation doesn’t diminish and creates patient symptoms, including chronic inflammation, thickening of the intestinal wall, and ulceration.
       
    • Heredity. There seems to be a family link in Crohn’s patients. Research shows that between 5–20 percent of Crohn’s patients have a parent, child, or sibling with the disease. Additionally, you’re at a higher risk of developing Crohn’s if both of your parents have IBD.
       
    • Environment. Where you live may factor into your risk of developing Crohn’s. It appears that people who live in northern rather than southern climates are more likely to develop the disease. Additionally, Crohn’s is more common in urban areas and in developed countries.

    Crohn’s Symptoms

    Crohn’s disease symptoms can range from mild to severe. Here's a brief look at the different types of symptoms a Crohn’s patient may experience when suffering from this condition:

    • Mild to moderate. If your doctor classifies your Crohn’s as mild to moderate, you may have frequent diarrhea and abdominal pain, but your ability to eat and walk isn't affected. You're unlikely to have signs of tenderness in the abdomen, significant weight loss, dehydration, or a high fever.
    • Moderate to severe. If your condition is in the moderate to severe category, you are likely to have abdominal tenderness or pain, consistent diarrhea, anemia, and weight loss.
    • Very severe. Severe symptoms may include consistent vomiting, evidence of an abscess or an intestinal obstruction, serious weight loss, and a high fever.

    It’s also possible that Crohn’s can create additional complications, including:

    • Gallstones and kidney stones
    • Liver disease
    • Arthritis
    • Eye and mouth inflammation
    • Ulcers or skin rashes

    Treatment for Crohn’s Disease

    Crohn’s is an incurable disease, but there are treatment plans that can help control the symptoms. The goals for treatment are to relieve the symptoms of bleeding, diarrhea, and pain; reduce inflammation; eliminate nutritional deficiencies; and possibly achieve and maintain remission, where you have a period of time without symptoms.

    There are a variety of medications that are used to treat Crohn’s disease, including antibiotics, aminosalicylates—also known as 5-ASAs—steroids, immune modifiers, and biologic therapies. Each category of drug is used at different stages or phases of the condition, and each type has its own side effects.

    Some of these drugs stop the body’s immune system from bringing about the inflammation; some are used to treat bacterial infections and the overgrowth of bacteria that can form in the small intestine. Sometimes a combination of therapies is needed or recommended, and sometimes the patient will need surgery. It’s important to work closely with your doctor to define the right plan for you.

    We Can Help

    If you or a family member suffers from Crohn’s disease and need help applying for SS benefits, the attorneys at Cuddigan Law offer experience and skill to help you get the financial support you need. Cuddigan Law also handles SS disability claims for clients who need assistance with the appeals process if their claim was denied. We want to help, so contact us by phone at (402) 933-5405, or fill out our online form.