While hepatitis C can be cleared up with oral medications within six months, this disease can go undiagnosed for decades, which will often result in damage to the liver. That’s why some people with hepatitis C need to take time off of work to get the medical treatment that they need to be healthy and so that they can go to work without pain and illness. Anyone with certain risk factors should know the symptoms of hepatitis C and get tested for it sooner rather than later so that they can get treatment before they have major liver damage. People who find out that they have hepatitis C should also go about finding the information they need to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
What Is Hepatitis C?
Hepatitis C is a viral infection, but it’s not like many infections. People can become infected with hepatitis C and not know about it for years or even decades because they don’t have any symptoms. Typically, this infection affects the liver, causing inflammation that can lead to liver damage or liver cancer.
Hepatitis C spreads through blood that has been contaminated, and health care workers are at an increased risk of being exposed to the virus because of their constant contact with patients, who might have the virus. If the health care worker experiences an accidental needle stick with a needle that was used on a person with hepatitis C, the health care worker could become infected, too.
People born between 1945 and 1965 are one of the highest risk age groups. Those who have used illicit injectable or inhaled drugs, people with HIV, those who have been in prison, anyone who has gotten a tattoo or piercing in an unsterile environment, and people who were born from a woman with hepatitis C are also at risk. Finally, people who have received a blood transfusion before 1992 or received blood clotting factor concentrates before 1987 are also at an increased risk.
There are a total of seven genotypes of hepatitis C throughout the world, and type I is the most common type in the U.S. There are also more than 67 subtypes. Treatments can vary according to the genotype of the virus that the patient is infected with.
Symptoms of Hepatitis C
Most of the time, people with hepatitis C don’t know that they have it because they don’t have symptoms, but people begin to experience signs of the infection after many years of damage to the liver. Some of these symptoms will include bleeding and bruising easily. The liver is responsible for producing the proteins that help the blood clot. As cirrhosis of the liver worsens, the liver fails to produce these proteins, which results in bleeding and bruising more easily.
The liver is one of the organs that’s responsible for processing bilirubin. When the liver is damaged, it’s unable to process this, so the bilirubin builds up in the blood and gets deposited in the skin. These deposits will give the skin a yellow color, which is jaundice.
Since the liver isn’t properly cleaning the body, urine also becomes dark yellow. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms reported by people who have cirrhosis of the liver, and some people might also experience poor appetite, weight loss, swelling in the legs, confusion, and spider-like blood vessels.
When a person is first infected, there’s an acute phase a couple of months after the infection. Many times, the infection is missed because there aren’t always symptoms at this stage. If there are symptoms present, some of these can include jaundice, fatigue, nausea, sore muscles, and fever. Additionally, some people are able to clear the virus after the acute phase, so they never reach the chronic phase.
Treatments for Hepatitis C
Once a person has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, they need to begin taking antiviral medications. One of the exciting things about treatment for hepatitis C is that it’s quickly evolving and constantly becoming better. As a consequence, the amount of time that it takes to treat someone with hepatitis C is significantly less. In fact, treatments to rid the body of hepatitis C with antivirals usually only takes about 12 weeks, and it can sometimes only take 9 weeks of treatments.
Another treatment that people with chronic hepatitis C often need is a liver transplant because the damage to the liver is too extensive. In this procedure, the damaged liver is removed from the patient and replaced with a liver from either a deceased donor or a live donor who chose to donate a portion of their liver.
Regardless of where the liver came from, the patient with hepatitis C will still need to undergo the antiviral medications to rid the body of the disease.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a vaccine for hepatitis C, so there’s no way to prevent it other than to get tested and avoid risky behavior, such as using dirty needles. There are, however, vaccines for hepatitis A and hepatitis B that people should get to prevent infection from these strains.
Disability Benefits for Hepatitis C
There isn’t a specific listing for hepatitis C in the SSA Blue Book, which is the diagnostic manual that’s used to determine who is eligible for disability benefits. But that doesn’t mean that a person who has hepatitis C and experiences serious or severe symptoms can’t get benefits.
In order to meet the guidelines set out for disability benefits, there are a couple of ways that an applicant can go. One of the first avenues to try is to see if they meet the medical listing for Chronic Liver Disease. This is where many people with hepatitis C will meet the requirements because hepatitis C causes cirrhosis of the liver and liver cancer.
There are a few criteria that a person needs to meet to be automatically qualified under the listing of Chronic Liver Disease. For instance, a person must have experienced end stage liver disease, gastrointestinal hemorrhage, spontaneous peritonitis, hepatorenal syndrome, ascites, hepatopulmonary syndrome, or hepatic encephalopathy.
If someone with hepatitis C doesn’t meet the listing for Chronic Liver Disease, they can also apply using a functional residual capacity test. Applicants should also think about the physical and mental side effects of the drugs that they’re on to treat the hepatitis C. The residual functional capacity test will require that the doctor submit a list of all of the limitations that the patient has. The SSA will then compare this list to the jobs that the applicant has done in the past to determine whether or not there is any work that the applicant can do.
How We Can Help
There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Disability Law can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…
- Apply for Social Security Benefits and want to ensure everything is done right the first time
- Appeal a denial of Social Security Disability Benefits
- Appeal an existing denial of Long Term Disability (LTD) Benefits
If you are facing one of these situations due to Hepatitis C, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.