Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system wrongly attacks and destroys healthy body tissue. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, there are about 80 types of autoimmune diseases. These conditions affect up to 50 million Americans, including numerous Chicago residents.
Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to detect and diagnose. These diseases often cause similar symptoms, and some people suffer from more than one condition. Additionally, autoimmune diseases often alternate between remission and flare-ups. Some people may not even realize they suffer from these diseases.
Identifying autoimmune diseases
Diagnosing an autoimmune disease based on a person’s medical history and lifestyle can be difficult, since the cause of autoimmune diseases is unknown. Researchers believe viruses, bacteria, chemical irritants and environmental irritants may promote autoimmune diseases. The family members of people with autoimmune diseases may also be more likely to develop the conditions.
The symptoms associated with autoimmune diseases can be diverse. Most victims experience exhaustion, fever and malaise. Additional symptoms depend on the body part affected. These diseases most often harm skin or connective tissue, blood cells or vessels, muscles, joints and endocrine glands. Common autoimmune diseases include:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Systemic vasculitis
- Systemic sclerosis
- HIV and other immune deficiency disorders
- Polymyositis and Dermatomyositis
Autoimmune diseases can be conclusively diagnosed through lab tests. Tests to measure red and white cell counts or C-reactive protein can indicate immune system inflammation. Other tests can directly detect antibodies that attack a person’s own cells.
Even once an autoimmune disease is diagnosed, treating it can be difficult. These diseases are incurable, so treatment focuses on managing symptoms. Unfortunately, even with effective treatment, some people still experience adverse symptoms.
Seeking financial support
Many people suffering from autoimmune diseases may not be able to work. These individuals may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. To qualify, an individual must have an adequate earnings record and sufficient proof of the disabling condition.
When an individual applies for SSD benefits, it’s crucial for his or her autoimmune disorder to be appropriately diagnosed. This ensures the application is filed under the correct impairment listing. The Social Security Administration then must find that the individual’s symptoms meet listing criteria or otherwise are severe enough to prevent employment.
Certain autoimmune disorders may qualify for the Compassionate Allowances program. This program allows automatic approval and expedited claims processing for individuals with certain serious conditions. However, applicants with these conditions still must meet the SSA’s strict standards when filing for benefits and providing medical documentation of the disabling autoimmune disease.