If you suffer from ulcerative colitis, you are familiar with the many discomforts and difficulties of living with this disease. Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease that is so severe that it can sometimes be life threatening. The condition causes inflammation and ulceration of the large intestine, which thickens and scars the colon. Eventually, the ulcerative colitis becomes so severe that the colon can no longer properly take in excess fluid from feces. Dangerous complications may result, including a ruptured colon, cancer of the colon, fistulas, and abscesses around the anus. All of these resulting complications from colitis can be make it impossible for you to return to work and support yourself. Fortunately, victims of colitis may qualify for Social Security disability benefits.
Symptoms of Colitis
To determine whether you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits due to ulcerative colitis, start by assessing the symptoms of your condition. The most common symptoms include the following:
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Rectal bleeding
- Formation of abscess
- Bloody diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
If you are experiencing some or all of these symptoms as a result of your ulcerative colitis, the next step should be to obtain a formal diagnosis from a licensed physician—if you have not done so already.
Causes of Ulcerative Colitis
A difficult aspect of this debilitating condition is that the exact cause of the disease is unknown. While most people with the condition have abnormalities of their immune systems, it is not known whether these abnormalities are the cause of the disease or if the abnormalities are a result of the effects of the condition. What is known is that the following factors do not cause this condition:
- Emotional distress
- Sensitivity to certain foods
- Sensitivity to certain food products
These factors, however, may trigger some of the symptoms of the condition.
Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis
Regardless of the cause of the ulcerative colitis, those suffering from this condition should pursue treatment in order to obtain some level of relief from the symptoms. The type of treatment recommended for any individual patient will depend upon the severity of that person’s disease. Examples of treatment that may be suggested include the following:
- Avoiding foods that can trigger an attack, such as foods that are highly seasoned, raw fruits and vegetables, and lactose
- Surgery to remove the diseased colon
While surgery can cure ulcerative colitis, it has a dangerous risk: it may cause short bowel syndrome. This condition is yet another debilitating digestive disease that may qualify sufferers for Social Security disability benefits.
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits Due to Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is evaluated by the Social Security Administration under the disability listing for inflammatory bowel disease. Inflammatory bowel disease is on the Administration’s listing of impairments, which may improve your chances of obtaining benefits in some cases. To qualify for benefits, you must demonstrate the following:
- A diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease
- A specific complication from the disease, such as anemia, an obstruction of the bowel, perineal disease with an abscess or fistula, or a tender abdominal mass
- Significant weight loss leaving you with a body mass index of 17.5 or less. If you meet these criteria, you may qualify for benefits under the Administration’s listing for weight loss
- An inability to return to full-time work as a result of your symptoms
Obtaining Social Security disability benefits can be an involved process. If you have never applied for benefits in the past, you may feel overwhelmed. Fortunately, we are here to help. We encourage you to view our free guide, Social Security Disability: What You Need to Know, as an excellent starting point.
by Paul B. Burkhalter Managing Partner of Morgan & Weisbrod, Board Certified in Social Security Disability Law.