Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder that causes problems with the digestive system, including pain or discomfort in the abdomen and changes in one’ bowel movement patterns.
A relative of ulcerative colitis, IBS is an inflammatory bowel disease that affects millions of individuals, women more so than men. It is estimated that between 20% and 50% of all visits to the gastroenterologist involve irritable bowel syndrome. The debilitating symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome include abdominal cramping and bloating, alternating periods of diarrhea and constipation, and sometimes a significant amount of anxiety and stress.
Causes of IBS
Some medical studies suggest that there may be a hormonal component to irritable bowel syndrome, which may result in changes of IBS symptoms – for better or worse – during pregnancy or menstruation. It has been estimated that approximately 80% of all irritable bowel syndrome sufferers have an overgrowth of bacteria in the intestines; treatment often involves the use of antibiotics to control bacterial growth.
Additionally, it appears that IBS episodes may be triggered by emotional factors such as stress, depression, anger, frustration, tenseness, or feeling overwhelmed. As such, counseling and medication therapy is often utilized in order to try and reduce the number of irritable bowel syndrome attacks. Most IBS sufferers do respond well to treatment; however, it can take many months or years, as well as experimentation with various types of treatment, to find relief.
Does IBS Qualify For Disability?
Individuals who are not able to control their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms usually have pretty significant restrictions in their activities of daily living. Although IBS is a commonly diagnosed condition, it can nonetheless be a severe impairment.
If you can prove that your IBS symptoms are painful, disruptive, and distracting enough to keep you from working a full-time job, you may qualify for long term disability insurance benefits.
To prove to the LTD insurance company that your IBS is so severe you can’t work, your medical records need to show how your IBS symptoms are so severe that they interfere with your ability to work. For example, if your abdominal pain and cramps interfere with your ability to focus and work at an acceptable pace, the insurance company should take these limitations into account in evaluating your claim.
As another example, if your IBS is so severe that you must take frequent and unscheduled bathroom breaks – say three times an hour – then that would obviously interfere with your ability to work, even if each bathroom visit was as short as only five minutes. If you were away from your work station 15 minutes per hour, then your work production would be cut by at least 25%. Thus, if your IBS reduces your productivity by over 25%, the insurance company is likely to consider you disabled as you would not likely be able to hold a job. (For more information, see our article on qualifying for disability due to reduced productivity.)
The insurance company will look at your medical record for clues on how your condition impacts you ability to do work activity. If your doctor has provided an opinion as to how your IBS limits you, it will be particularly helpful for your claim. That’s because the insurance company will take this information and create a “residual functional capacity” (RFC) assessment for you, which identifies what you can and cannot be expected to do. For more information on how RFCs are used to decide disability claims, see our section on RFCs.