At some point in time, most of us have suffered from diarrhea, bloating, or an upset stomach. But for sufferers of inflammatory bowel disease, these symptoms are nearly constant — often making it difficult to live a normal life, let alone work.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), inflammatory bowel disease affects an estimated 3 million adults in the United States. Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be incredibly burdensome for those who suffer from it. Based on one national survey, 32% of patients with these conditions reported being out of the workforce in a 1 year period.
For those individuals with long-term disability insurance, benefits payable under these policies may help to ease this burden. While the symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis vary in severity from person to person, they can have a tremendous impact on those who suffer from the more serious forms. Working with a Cherry Hill disability benefits attorney can help you get the benefits that you deserve.
Understanding Crohn’s Disease
Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disease that causes inflammation of the digestive tract. This inflammation can cause a variety of symptoms, from abdominal pain to severe diarrhea, weight loss, fatigue, and malnutrition. Inflammation from Crohn’s disease may spread deep into layers of affected bowel tissue, and can be painful and debilitating.
People with Crohn’s disease are impacted in different ways depending on what part of the intestine is affected and the severity of the illness. Most commonly, the last part of the small intestine and the colon are affected.
The signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease can develop gradually or come on suddenly. They may also go into remission for a period of time. They include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Mouth sores
- Bloody stools
- Reduced appetite and weight loss
- Pain or drainage near or around the anus
- Inflammation of skin, eyes, and joints
- Delayed growth or sexual development (children)
- Inflammation of liver or bile ducts
Crohn’s disease can lead to a number of complications, including bowel obstructions, ulcers, fistulas (ulcers that extend completely through the intestinal wall), malnutrition, colon cancer, anal fissures, and skin disorders.
There is no cure for Crohn’s disease, but it can be managed by reducing the inflammation in the intestines with medications. These include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics, and immune system suppressors. A doctor may also recommend surgery or the use of a feeding tube for nutrition therapy.
What is Ulcerative Colitis?
Like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation and ulcers in the digestive tract, primarily in the innermost lining of the colon and rectum. It is often debilitating and can result in life-threatening complications.
Symptoms of ulcerative colitis typically develop over time. The signs and symptoms of this disease vary, depending on how severe the inflammation is and where it is located. They may include:
- Diarrhea, often with blood or pus
- Urgency to defecate
- Rectal pain
- Rectal bleeding
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Inability to defecate
- Weight loss
- Failure to grow (in children)
There are five types of ulcerative colitis, which are classified based on its location. These types include:
- Ulcerative proctitis: inflammation located in the area closest to the rectum; often the mildest form, with rectal bleeding possibly the only symptom
- Proctosigmoiditis: inflammation in the rectum and sigmoid colon; symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, and an inability to move the bowels
- Left-sided colitis: inflammation from the rectum through the sigmoid and descending colon; symptoms include bloody diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping on the left side and unintended weight loss
- Pancolitis: inflammation of the entire colon; symptoms include severe bloody diarrhea, abdominal cramps and pain, fatigue and significant weight loss
- Acute severe ulcerative colitis: affects the entire colon; symptoms include severe pain, profuse diarrhea, bleeding, fever, and inability to eat.
Ulcerative colitis may lead to complications, such as a perforated colon, severe dehydration, bone loss, an increased risk of colon cancer, and severe bleeding.
There is no cure for ulcerative colitis. It is typically treated with medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs and immune system suppressants. In some cases, surgery to remove the entire colon and rectum is necessary to eliminate ulcerative colitis.
How Do I Qualify for Long-Term Disability Benefits with Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis?
Both Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that can cause debilitating symptoms and lead to an increased chance of other serious health problems. If you suffer from one of these diseases, your condition may become severe enough to interfere with your ability to work. In that situation, you may qualify for long-term disability (LTD) benefits.
LTD benefits are monetary benefits provided by an insurance policy that is designed to provide coverage in the event that you are unable to work due to a disability. It is important to check the terms of your policy for any limits or exclusions. Generally, there is a waiting period after you become disabled (unable to work due to your medical condition) before you will be eligible for LTD benefits.
To qualify for LTD benefits with Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, you must be able to prove that you are disabled as defined by your insurance policy. To do so, you will need to provide proof of your condition and how your condition limits your ability to work.
First, you must document your diagnosis of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. This is typically done through medical records, including notes from your treating physician and the results of any tests that you may have had done. This may include blood tests, colonoscopies, MRIs, endoscopies, X-rays and CT scans.
Second, you must provide evidence of how your Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis impacts your ability to work. There are many ways that these diseases can affect a person’s job performance. It is important to document exactly how each symptom impacts your ability to work.
For example, if you have Crohn’s disease, abdominal pain and cramping may make it difficult to sit or stand in one position for an extended period of time. Alternatively, you may be fatigued from the condition and unable to concentrate. Frequent bathroom visits may make it difficult to complete tasks.
Similarly, a person with ulcerative colitis may need to go to the bathroom frequently due to diarrhea — forcing them to miss a substantial amount of work. They may also require major surgery to correct the condition, necessitating time off of work. Complications related to ulcerative colitis, like a perforated colon, may also cause a person to miss work and be unable to perform as necessary.
Documenting your diagnosis and how it limits your ability to work will strengthen your claim, and help to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. If possible, your treating physician should explain how your disease impacts your job.
Work with a Cherry Hill Disability Benefits Attorney
Inflammatory bowel disease can have devastating effects. From severe diarrhea to weight loss to fatigue to life-threatening complications, Crohn’s ideas and ulcerative colitis are serious illnesses that may affect your ability to work. If you are struggling to fulfill your work obligations due to your inflammatory bowel disease, a long term disability benefits attorney can help.
For over 20 years, Bross & Frankel has worked with clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania to help them obtain disability benefits. We understand the impact of medical conditions on our clients’ lives — and we have the skill and experience to help get the benefits that they deserve. To schedule a free review of your disability benefits claim, contact our office today at 856-795-8880, or reach out online.