June 2012 is Scleroderma Awareness Month. Scleroderma is a chronic systemic autoimmune disease characterized by “fibrosis”, a hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues (the fibers that provide the framework and support for your body). Scleroderma involves the overproduction of collagen. There are two major forms of scleroderma: (i) Limited systemic scleroderma and (ii) Diffuse systemic scleroderma.
Limited systemic scleroderma involves cutaneous manifestations that mainly affect the hands, arms, and face. Diffuse systemic scleroderma can be rapidly progressing and affects a large area of the skin and one or more internal organs, frequently the kidneys, esophagus, heart, and lungs. As with all medical conditions that can qualify for social security disability benefits, the issue is the severity of the scleroderma symptoms and their impact on functional ability related to work activites. In my 21 years of experience in Dallas Fort Worth I have successfully handled many disability claims based upon scleroderma. The important symptoms of scleroderma that I have seen include:
- Raynaud’s phenomenon – a condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms that block blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.
- Joint pain, soreness, and stiffness.
- Fatigue, muscle weakness and malaise.
- respiratory problems, such as shortness of breath, coughing, difficulty breathing, alveolitis (inflammation of lung air sacs)
- Thickening, tightening and atrophy of hands can severely limit both gross and fine hand dexterity required for a wide range of clerical and sedentary jobs