New cases of Lyme Disease affect an estimated 20,000 to 25,000 people each year. Because the symptoms of the disease are often difficult to pinpoint early in its development, these numbers could be even higher.
Lyme Disease is an infectious bacterial illness that is carried by ticks. The disease was not recognized until 1975, possibly because diagnosis of its many seemingly unrelated symptoms is difficult. The Connecticut town of Old Lyme was the site of the first notable outbreak of the disease, giving the illness its name.
Lyme Disease progresses through three stages if left untreated. In its early localized phase, the infection is still confined to the area surrounding the initial tick bite. During this phase, patients may feel itchy all over and suffer general flu-like symptoms such as aching muscles and fever. Headaches and dizziness are also common. The bite may develop a red ring around it. These symptoms occur within a few days or weeks of contracting the illness.
During the second phase, early disseminated Lyme Disease, the infection moves throughout the body in the months following initial contact. Partial facial paralysis, muscle pain, swollen joints and heartbeat irregularities occur during this phase of the disease. Because the symptoms of Lyme Disease at this stage mimic so many other conditions, it can be difficult to diagnose.
Late disseminated Lyme Disease can occur years after the initial infection. Possible symptoms include muscle weakness, difficulty walking, fatigue, numbness, tingling and cognitive difficulties. These symptoms come and go, sometimes spontaneously going into remission for months before flaring up again.
Of the 20,000 or so cases of Lyme Disease that are newly diagnosed each year, 96 percent of them occur in 13 states throughout the northeastern and north central portions of the United States. Ticks that have fed from deer that carry Borrelia bergdorferi bacteria can transmit this infectious agent to human hosts. Although it can be prevented with antibiotics in its early phases, diagnosis may come too late to stop the illness from becoming systemic and affecting nerves and muscles throughout the body.
Lyme Disease can have profound effects on a person’s ability to work. The muscle weakness, fatigue and arthritis-like joint pain may make it impossible for sufferers to continue their normal work schedules. Social Security disability benefits can alleviate the financial strain that the protracted illness can cause. However, patients must first demonstrate that they have the illness and are impaired in their usual work because of it.
Many disabilities that qualify people for Social Security benefits are listed by name, but Lyme Disease is not one of them. To meet the disability listing standards, patients with Lyme Disease may need to file for them under more general categories. The illness affects joints and muscles, so Section 1.00 that covers musculoskeletal disorders can often apply to late-stage Lyme Disease sufferers. Sections applying to the cardiovascular system or to mental capacity may also cover the symptoms of this illness.
Tick bites are usually innocuous, but for those who contract Lyme Disease, recovery can take years. Social Security benefits can ease financial concerns from loss of work due to this potentially debilitating illness.
To discuss SSD and SSI claims or appeals, please call (215) 464-7200 or contact the attorneys of Chermol & Fishman, LLC. The initial consultation is free, and we never charge a fee until we win your case.
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