Social Security’s rules recognize a wide variety of immune system disorders (also known as autoimmune disorders) which, if severe enough, may qualify for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration. These conditions include:
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a complicated ongoing disease in which your brain and certain systems of the body suffer from physical and mental exhaustion. It goes by many other names including immune dysfunction syndrome, myalgic encephalomyelitis, post-viral fatigue syndrome and low natural killer cell disease. Under any name, the disorder is characterized by a strong and persistent feeling of fatigue. It is a technically rare disease, as fatigue is usually a symptom accompanied by another illness.
Aids or HIV Infection
Many individuals with HIV infection have a condition that prevents them from being able to work. If their impairment(s) meet the duration requirement, they may be found disabled. On the other hand, individuals with HIV infection who are asymptomatic, or who have less severe HIV manifestations, may be found not disabled. Therefore, Social Security evaluates each case on an individual basis and relies on the signs, symptoms, laboratory findings, and other information unique to that person’s case in order to make a decision.
The usual symptoms of Lyme disease include fever, chills, headaches, muscle pain, a stiff neck, and body-wide itching. A “bull’s eye” or “butterfly” rash may appear in the affected area, a flat or slightly raised red spot that can expand to a rather large size. These are the signs of Stage 1 or localized Lyme disease. Stage 2, disseminated Lyme disease will usually only occur if former symptoms go untreated. This stage starts a spread of the bacteria through the body, can last for many weeks, and causes paralysis or swelling in affected muscles. Stage 3 or late disseminated Lyme disease is when the bacteria have spread throughout the entire body. Its results can last for months or even years and can cause extreme muscle pain and weakness.
Graves disease is an autoimmune disorder that typically leads to hyperthyroidism or overactivity of the thyroid gland. It is caused by an abnormal immune system response that causes the thyroid gland to produce too many thyroid hormones. Graves disease is most common in women over age 20. However, the disorder may occur at any age and may affect men as well.
Connective Tissue Disorder
The term connective tissue disorder refers to any condition in which the connective tissues of the body undergo any harm or damage. These connective tissues are found throughout the body and are what support, bind together, and protect the vital organs. The tissues are made of two major structural protein molecules, namely collagen, and elastin. A connective tissue disorder will cause an inflammation of the tissue that damages the elastin, which allows the ligaments that attach bones together to stretch and act as springs for easy bodily movement.
The most common forms of connective tissue disorder are divided into the groups heritable and autoimmune. Heritable disorders include Marfan syndrome, a genetic disease that causes abnormal growth of elastin, and Stickler syndrome, which affects collagen and often results in loss of vision and hearing. Another example is osteogenesis imperfecta, or brittle bone disease, which causes low production of collagen, which is necessary for producing healthy bones.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
Lupus, or systemic lupus erythematosus, is a disease in which the immune system essentially attacks itself, causing inflammation and damage to the body’s cells and tissues. This type of self-attack is called a systemic autoimmune disease. With lupus, there is an extra danger of antibody-immune complexes reacting violently and causing additional damage. This is called Type III hypersensitivity.
The heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidneys, and nervous system are all common targets of lupus. The effects of the disease can be unpredictable, often occurring in periods that alternate with normal health. Symptoms of lupus can be widely varied and difficult to diagnose. The disease is sometimes referred to as the “great imitator” because its victims’ complaints are of signs usually recognized as symptoms of other diseases. Chronic lapses of fever, fatigue, joint pain, and malaise are typical signs, as is a temporary loss of cognitive function. Other possible signs include headaches, blood clots, chest pain, mouth ulcers, and urinary difficulty.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic, autoimmune disease, which means it can occur in numerous organs at once and forces the body to attack its own system, causing irritation in the joints and sometimes also in the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves. It is usually experienced by middle-aged women but can occur in children and older individuals, and men who have it often suffer more harshly than women. The disease is also symmetrical. Therefore, if a joint has been affected, the matching joint on the opposite side of the body will also show symptoms. This form of parallel attack makes it unique compared to other forms of arthritis.
Those with the condition can experience symptoms which may include fatigue and anemia, as well as aching pain and swelling, for extended or brief periods, and can often enter a lengthy remission with no symptoms or pain. However, since rheumatoid arthritis is considered chronic, it is not likely that those who currently have it will ever be cured.