The endocrine system regulates our body’s functioning. Endocrine glands produce hormones and release them into our bloodstream where they travel to the different organs in the body.
The key endocrine glands are the pituitary gland, the thyroid gland (which controls our growth and metabolism), the adrenal glands, the pancreas (which releases insulin to control our blood sugar level), and the pineal gland. Disorders can result if the levels of hormones in our body are out of balance.
Qualifying for Disability Benefits
You may qualify for disability benefits based on an endocrine system disorder if you have been diagnosed with a medical condition, your glandular condition is severe enough, and you are unable to work.
Because many endocrine disorders can be controlled with medication, most disability claims based on endocrine disorders occur when the medication has failed to work, thereby causing damage to other body systems.
Pituitary Gland Disorders
The functioning of the kidneys may be affected if the pituitary gland releases too many hormones, which may lead to diabetes insipidus. Symptoms of pituitary gland disorders include dehydration and excessive thirst.
Thyroid Gland Disorders
An imbalance of the thyroid gland may cause the following conditions:
- Arrhythmia (an irregular heart beat) and other cardiac disorders. Evidence demonstrating an arrhythmia may include an ECG (electrocardiogram), an exercise tolerance test, and a heart x-ray.
- Weight loss due to digestive disorder.
- Stroke. Limitations due to a stroke include difficulties with your speech or communication, or interference with your ability to walk or use your hands/arms.
- Mood disorders, anxiety, and inability to concentrate. Evidence of such impairments may include psychological testing and mental status examinations.
Parathyroid Gland Disorders
The parathyroid gland may affect the level of calcium in the body. An improper calcium level may lead to the following disorders:
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures. Evidence of such conditions may include an x-ray or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). A fracture must restrict your ability to walk effectively or use your arms.
- Eye cataracts. Proof of such a condition may include evidence of diminished visual acuity (ability to do fine work) or a limited field of vision.
- Kidney system failure. Evidence of such a condition may include laboratory findings and medical evidence showing deterioration in your kidneys over a period of time.
- Tetany (involuntary cramping of the muscles) and muscle spasms. As proof of such conditions, you would need to show difficulties with your ability to walk or use your hands/arms.
Adrenal Gland Disorders
The adrenal gland may affect your blood pressure, your bone calcium levels, your metabolism, and your ability to think clearly. The following disorders can result from problems with the adrenal gland:
- Osteoporosis and bone fractures.
- Hypertension that causes heart failure or reoccurring arrhythmias.
- Cushing syndrome.
- Weight loss.
- Mood disorders.
Pancreatic Gland Disorders
Diabetes may be evaluated as a pancreatic gland disorder. Hyperglycemia (high levels of glucose in the blood) and hypoglycemia (low levels of glucose in the blood) may cause the following conditions:
- Cardiac arrhythmias.
- Intestinal necrosis (damage to the intestine due to a lack of blood supply). Evidence of such condition may include an x-ray or MRI, and any other laboratory testing.
- Seizures. Proof of such condition should include evidence documenting the frequency of seizures and whether the condition results in a loss of consciousness.
- Mood or eating disorders.
- Amputation of an extremity.
- Diabetic retinopathy.
- Coronary artery disease and vascular disease.
- Diabetic gastroparesis (food stays in your stomach too long due to nerve damage). Evidence of such condition may include an x-ray, an MRI, or other clinical evidence.
- Diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease). Problems may include severe edema (swelling) despite therapy. Evidence in support includes laboratory findings of your protein levels.
- Fungal and bacterial skin infections. Problems may include ulcerating skin lesions that persist for months despite treatment, and which interfere with your ability to walk or use your hands.
- Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage). Neuropathies may cause significant problems with the use of two of your extremities despite treatment.
- Thinking difficulties, depression, and anxiety.
Assessing Your Residual Functional Capacity
If you suffer from an endocrine system disorder, you may be found disabled based upon your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is the most activity you can do while in a work setting.
The long term disability insurance adjuster handling your claim will consider your medical history and your own statements in determining your RFC, but the most important evidence of your RFC is a detailed written opinion from your doctor on what you can and cannot do.
The insurance company wants to know if you can do the following types of work tasks: how long you can sit, stand, and walk; how well you can use your arms and hands for fine and gross manipulation; how well you can bend, stoop, crouch, crawl and walk up stairs; how well you can interact with the public and coworkers; how well you can follow instructions; and how well you can keep on pace and complete tasks in a timely manner during the workday.
If you suffer from diabetes and have difficulty controlling your blood glucose levels, then you may suffer from fatigue, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Your RFC may look like the following: limited to sedentary (sit down) work, moderately restricted in working with others and the general public, and limited to the ability to follow only simple instructions. This RFC would limit you from most (but not all) jobs. To be found disabled, you should be able to show that you are unable perform any work.
If your disorder is particularly severe and limits your ability to concentrate on most tasks, or if you have extreme fatigue throughout the day, then you would likely be found disabled because of these non-exertional limitations.