Chronic liver disease is a category of diseases that includes cirrhosis. Liver disease is sometimes called a “silent” condition because patients who are diagnosed with it often have no symptoms. As the body’s largest organ, the liver performs critical functions such as:
- Help the body digest important nutrients
- Enable blood clotting
- Filter out toxins
- Fight infections
When the liver suffers significant, long-term damage, scar tissue replaces the liver’s healthy tissue, and this critical organ can no longer function the way it’s supposed to. Patients with cirrhosis may not present symptoms for months or years, but eventually they might experience weakness and fatigue, itchy skin, easy bruising, abdominal pain and bloating, nausea and vomiting, and blood vessels that appear like spiderwebs on the skin.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis and are unable to sustain gainful employment, you may be eligible for disability from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
And while chronic liver disease is listed in section 5.05 of the SSA’s Blue Book of Impairments, obtaining benefits for this disease may not be easy.
To help ensure you meet the criteria and submit a successful claim, it’s important to hire an experienced Social Security attorney to step you through the application process.
Facts About Cirrhosis
When you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you need the facts about this disease to move forward with your life. Here are some important facts about cirrhosis:
Cirrhosis Isn’t Caused by Trauma to the Liver
Acute or short-term liver damage doesn’t cause cirrhosis. This disease usually develops after years of chronic injury, most often due to heavy drinking over a long period of time. Chronic hepatitis C is also a common cause, as well as chronic hepatitis B and D.
Other causes include:
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). An increasingly common condition, NAFLD occurs when fat builds up in the liver. It’s associated with diabetes, protein malnutrition, coronary artery disease, and obesity.
- Inherited diseases. Some inherited diseases interfere with critical liver functions. Wilson disease, galactosemia, cystic fibrosis, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, and hemochromatosis inhibit the liver’s ability to produce, store, and process enzymes and proteins. These diseases can cause cirrhosis.
- Infections, drugs, and toxins. Cirrhosis can also be caused by certain drug interactions, long-term exposure to toxic chemicals, parasitic diseases (also called parasitosis), and episodic occurrences of heart failure with liver congestion.
Cirrhosis Is a Risk Factor for Liver Cancer
Over 70 percent of patients with liver cancer in the U.S. develop the disease because they have cirrhosis. Additionally, patients with cirrhosis have 40 times the increased risk of developing liver than the average American. When a patient has chronic liver disease and the organ's cells become damaged and die, scar tissue usually replaces those cells. If normal cells have been are significantly damaged, they can become cancer cells.
Complications Can Occur With Cirrhosis
When your liver is not working properly, it can affect your body in a variety of ways and cause complications, including:
- Portal hypertension. This complication occurs when the scar tissue compresses veins inside the liver and increases the blood pressure in the organ. Most people with cirrhosis have this high pressure in their liver’s blood vessels, and in the U.S., cirrhosis is the most common cause of portal hypertension.
- Hepatic encephalopathy. A patient who suffers this complication has a build-up of toxins in his bloodstream that the scarred liver can’t get rid of. These toxins can cause a patient to be confused, be especially sleepy, and exhibit bizarre behavior.
- Gastrointestinal bleeding. When patients suffer portal hypertension, blood can back up and flow into the veins in the stomach and esophagus. This can cause varicose veins, and these varices can rip and cause life-threatening bleeding.
- Ascites (fluid retention). Portal hypertension can cause fluid “pooling” in your abdominal cavity. This can further cause swelling, dehydration, and problems breathing. When this excess fluid collects in your abdomen, it can become infected, causing spontaneous bacterial peritonitis.
Contact Cuddigan Law
If you’ve been diagnosed with cirrhosis, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits, and hiring a knowledgeable attorney can be instrumental in submitting a successful application. The legal team at Cuddigan Law has extensive experience helping clients increase their chances of getting an approved claim. Contact us today to discuss your specific situation.