Also known by the medical term thromboangiitis obliterans, Buerger’s disease is a condition of the arteries and veins within the arms and legs. The disorder causes blood vessels in the hands and feet to become inflamed and swell because of blockages created by blood clots. Over time, the disease can damage or destroy tissue, which may cause pain, an infection and gangrene. In severe cases, the symptoms of Buerger’s disease may make it impossible for you to work. If this occurs, you may be eligible to receive Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits.
Buerger’s disease is a rare medical condition that causes blood vessels to become inflamed, which restricts circulation especially in the hands and feet. Symptoms of the disease start with pain followed by muscle weakness in the affected area. Sufferers may experience pale toes and fingers when exposed to cold temperatures. The disease also fosters the creation of blood clots that can create additional complications. Poor circulation can cause tissue damage, skin ulcers and necrosis because of the lack of oxygen and nutrients. While the exact cause is unknown, the condition primarily affects men between the ages of 40 and 45 who use tobacco products heavily. Genetics may also play a role.
While there is no test to confirm Buerger’s disease, a doctor will conduct a thorough medical examination and order a series of diagnostic tests to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms, such as lupus and diabetes. These tests may include blood work, an angiogram to check the condition of your arteries and an Allen’s test to check blood flow. In addition to smoking cessation, treatment options include medications to dilate blood vessels, dissolve clots and improve blood flow. Treatment may also include intermittent compression of the arms and legs to increase blood flow. In severe cases, surgery may be required to cut nerves in order to control pain or amputate areas affected by infection or gangrene. There is no cure for Buerger’s disease. In many cases, the symptoms spontaneously disappear.
Individuals suffering from Buerger’s disease should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke or extremely cold temperatures. It may also be necessary to minimize or eliminate strenuous physical activity. Depending upon your job classification and your employer’s ability to accommodate the necessary restrictions, you may qualify for full or partial disability benefits.
Although Buerger’s disease is not listed separately in the SSA blue book, the severity of the symptoms may enable you to qualify for benefits in other disability categories. Systemic vasculitis, the inflammation of blood vessels, is a category listed in the blue book. Under that entry, Buerger’s disease is one of the accepted medical conditions that can cause vasculitis. Other complications that may be considered during your disability claim include pulmonary embolisms, venostasis and skin ulcers. In rare cases, the disease may result in the amputation of your hands or feet, which also may help you qualify for SSD benefits based on the guidelines of that specific category.
When applying for SSD benefits, ensure to include medical records describing your condition, treatments, responses to care and your prognosis. The records should also contain the results of any diagnostic testing and hospital stays. This process can be frustrating – we’re here to help you through it.
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