When it’s difficult to breathe, you probably have problems going to work and being productive. Pulmonary fibrosis is a condition that can make it difficult or impossible to breathe, and if you’re experiencing symptoms from this disease, you should talk to your doctor to see if there’s any way that you could receive SSDI benefits. There are numerous reasons that you might be having difficulties breathing, but if you find out that pulmonary fibrosis is the problem, know that there are Social Security benefits available to help you and your loved ones when you need extra care, and you can get those benefits quickly.
What is Pulmonary Fibrosis?
When lungs get scarred over time, it becomes difficult for people to breathe. Scarring on the lungs is one of the primary results of pulmonary fibrosis. People with pulmonary fibrosis have lungs that have become thick and stiff, which makes it more difficult to breathe and, as a result, work. Over time, it might even become impossible to breathe without an oxygen tank.
There are several contaminants that a person can be exposed to that make it more likely that they’ll develop pulmonary fibrosis. For instance, some workplace contaminants that can contribute to pulmonary fibrosis include coal dust, grain dust, asbestos, metal dusts, grain dust, and animal droppings.
Smoking is one of the most common types of contaminants that causes pulmonary fibrosis, and it’s also one of the easiest ones to avoid. Finally, exposure to radiation can contribute to the development of pulmonary fibrosis. People might receive radiation treatment for breast or lung cancer and develop pulmonary fibrosis years later. Whether or not chemotherapy was also used and the amount of the lung that was exposed to radiation will also factor into how severe the pulmonary fibrosis is.
Some medications can also cause pulmonary fibrosis. For instance, some chemotherapy drugs, heart medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, and antibiotics can cause pulmonary fibrosis.
Finally, some conditions might trigger pulmonary fibrosis. For example, pneumonia is one common cause. Some other conditions include scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, polymyositis, dermatomyositis, and mixed connective tissue disease.
Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, which is pulmonary fibrosis where the cause of it hasn’t been diagnosed, is the most common form of the condition. Most people are over the age of 50 when they’re diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.
Unfortunately, because there’s no cure for pulmonary fibrosis and it affects a person’s ability to breathe, without a lung transplant, a person’s life expectancy is shortened.
Symptoms of Pulmonary Fibrosis
The way that the symptoms manifest can vary from one person to the next, and the progression can take months or years, or it can happen all at once. Some of the most common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue, dry cough, unexplained weight loss, and clubbing of the tips of the fingers and toes, which is when the tips become large and rounded. People with pulmonary fibrosis get clubbing in the fingers and toes because fluid is pooling in the tips of fingers and toes.
Some people might also see a period of days or weeks when their symptoms become suddenly much worse. In cases like these, the person might need to be put on a ventilator.
Pulmonary fibrosis can cause some people to gradually and unintentionally lose weight, oftentimes because of the medications, which can make patients feel nauseous. This is especially common for people entering the later stages of the disease.
Tiredness is also a common experience because it’s difficult for people with pulmonary fibrosis to get enough oxygen. This tiredness will be both in an inability to stay awake and an inability to do physical activities. Some people will also experience muscles and joints that are achy, which is caused by the lack of oxygen reaching the muscles and joints.
Treatment for Pulmonary Fibrosis
While there’s no cure for pulmonary fibrosis and no way of stopping its progression, there are some treatments that can slow the rate at which the lungs become stiffer. The scarring that a person gets with pulmonary fibrosis is permanent, but certain treatments can also improve the quality of the person’s life.
For instance, pirfenidone can be used to slow the progression of the disease, and some people can take anti-acid tablets to reduce the symptoms of GERD, a type of condition in which acid flows back into the esophagus, that they’re experiencing.
Oxygen therapy is also given to some patients to promote a sense of well-being, make breathing while at rest or while exercising easier, increase oxygen levels and lessen the complications that arise from low oxygen levels, improve sleep, and reduce blood pressure.
In some cases, a lung transplant could be an option since the damage to the lungs is unavoidable. A lung transplant can help some people live longer, more full lives, but there are risks of complications, such as infection and rejection of the new lung, that are involved in receiving a lung transplant.
Finally, rehabilitation programs help some patients with various aspects of managing their condition. For instance, counseling is useful to people who are struggling with managing emotionally. Other types of programs include breathing techniques, physical exercise, nutritional counseling, and further education about the condition.
There are also several lifestyle changes that someone with pulmonary fibrosis should make. For instance, anyone who is smoking should quit immediately. Getting vaccinated for the flu is also important because respiratory infections can make symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis even worse.
Disability Benefits for Pulmonary Fibrosis
Getting disability benefits for pulmonary fibrosis is necessary in some cases, especially for people who are unable to breathe without an oxygen tank and those who have physical jobs.
People who have been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and will be unable to work for at least a year should consider applying for benefits. There are two types of benefits that you might be able to apply for: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income. Also, if there’s no known cause for the pulmonary fibrosis, some people will qualify for a fast-tracked decision because the SSA has a compassionate allowance program, which allows them to speed up the process for people with certain types of diseases.
Since pulmonary fibrosis doesn’t have a separate listing, it falls under the listing for chronic respiratory disorders, instead. To test whether or not the applicant meets the requirements for the listing, they will have to undergo a forced expiratory volume test.
With pulmonary fibrosis, it’s rare for a person to not meet the requirements for the listing of chronic respiratory disorders. But if this happens, the Social Security Administration will give the residual functional capacity test. In this assessment, they’ll look at all of the activities that the applicant can no longer do and compare them with the physical requirements for jobs that the applicant has done in the past.
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 Pulmonary Fibrosis, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.