Disabling eye conditions can make it difficult to maintain a normal life, and workers who suffer from these conditions may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits.
There are many different types of disabling eye conditions that qualify for Social Security disability. In order to determine if you are eligible for disability benefits as a result of any of these conditions or to get help appealing a denial of benefits, contact an experienced Social Security attorney at Marc Whitehead & Associates today. We can work with you and your doctors to ensure all evidence is submitted in support of your claim and help you appeal if your benefits have been unfairly denied.
1. Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a common, age-related eye condition that causes progressive and irreversible vision loss. It occurs when the small central portion of the retina, called the macula, begins to deteriorate.
The macula contains many sensitive cells responsible for sharp, focused sight. There are no treatments available to restore eyesight once it has been lost.
Macular degeneration may be found in one or both eyes and can occur suddenly or slowly over time causing different levels of visual impairment in each eye. The earlier the onset of disease, the more severe it tends to be.
There are two types of macular degeneration:
- Dry macular degeneration accounts for 80% of all cases and has no known cause.
- Wet macular degeneration is the more serious form and occurs when abnormal blood vessels grow behind the retina and leak fluid leading to blindness.
This condition can also cause macular edema, which is a swelling that occurs around the macula. Macular edema is associated with a significant risk of permanent vision loss and blindness, and many people who suffer from this condition will be eligible for disability benefits.
2. Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a degenerative eye disease common to those who suffer from diabetes, which causes blood sugar levels to rise and damages tiny blood vessels in the retina, resulting in blurred or diminished eyesight. For some people diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, their condition may only worsen gradually over time; however, for others, it can progress rapidly and result in severe visual impairment — often within months — requiring immediate medical attention.
Laser surgery and vitrectomy surgeries are both available to stop or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, but these procedures will not improve your visual acuity.
Your doctor can help determine if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms of diabetic retinopathy:
- Blurred or diminished vision
- Floaters or shadows
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Pain or sudden increase of floaters
Some people experience increased pressure within the eye known as ocular hypertension, which can result in damage to the optic nerve and lead to blindness. If you are diagnosed with ocular hypertension by your optometrist, it is important that he or she also conducts a complete examination of your retina to look for signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Another eye disease that can cause blindness is glaucoma, which damages the optic nerve and causes vision loss. Although there is no cure for glaucoma, it can be treated with medications or surgery to slow its progression or stop it from worsening.
Glaucoma is most commonly diagnosed in people over age 40; however, anyone can develop this condition at any age if they suffer from diabetes or high blood pressure. Kidney disease can also place you at a higher risk for glaucoma.
You must be experiencing a significant loss of vision in both eyes to qualify for Social Security disability benefits for glaucoma. Your doctor can help determine if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Blurred or diminished vision
- Loss of peripheral vision
- Detectable blind spots in your perceptive field
If you are diagnosed with glaucoma, your doctor will use a special instrument to measure the pressure in your eyes. This measurement is known as intraocular pressure (IOP). If this measurement exceeds normal limits, it could be caused by glaucoma.
5. Sjogren’s Syndrome
Sjogren’s Syndrome is a condition that causes your immune system to attack the moisture-producing glands, resulting in dry eyes and mouth. People with Sjogren’s Syndrome are also likely to experience fatigue, muscle or joint pain, fever, and weight loss. The severity of these secondary symptoms will depend on how much of your body is being attacked by the immune system.
Although there are no effective treatments or cures for Sjogren’s Syndrome, this condition can be managed through the use of artificial tears, eye drops, and lubricating ointments to help protect your eyes from damage. To qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, you must have dry eyes which are so severe that they are not controlled with medication and are preventing you from being able to work.
If your doctor determines the dry eyes you are experiencing are caused by Sjogren’s Syndrome, he or she may use a special test known as Schirmer’s Test to measure the amount of tears you produce in both eyes. This test measures how much moisture is produced in the eye when it is pressed against an absorbent strip for 5 minutes.
Sjogren’s Syndrome is often found in patients who also suffer from an autoimmune disease such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s disease.
To be diagnosed with hemianopia, patients must experience a loss of vision in half of their visual field. Although this disorder does not lead to total blindness, it can be debilitating for people who are unable to see out of the side of their eyes while driving or walking down a sidewalk. Additionally, it may also prevent you from reading and working with your hands.
Hemianopia can be caused by several different diseases, including stroke, brain tumor, and diabetes, but the most common reason is due to a car accident which results in head injuries.
7. Retinitis Pigmentosa
Retinitis pigmentosa is a rare eye condition affecting the retinas of the eyes which may result in complete blindness over time. There are several different types of RP and it occurs when specialized cells at the back of the eye responsible for night vision slowly deteriorate leading to progressive tunnel vision or eventual blindness. If light perception remains, patients will still have some sight left even if peripheral vision has been lost.
Retinitis Pigmentosa is a degenerative disease that typically progresses slowly over time. It cannot be cured and there are no treatments to stop the progression of this condition, but it can be managed through the use of assistive devices such as telescopes, magnifying glasses, or special computer software that reads text aloud for patients who become blind.
Qualifications for Social Security Disability Benefits for
No matter what eye condition you are experiencing, several criteria must be met to qualify for SSDI benefits, including:
- You must have a disability that is expected to last at least 12 continuous months or result in death.
- Your disability must prevent you from performing substantial work activities.
- Your disability must be severe enough that it prevents you from working in any type of job.
A certain amount of work credits are also needed to be eligible for Social Security disability. These credits are based on your income. You can earn up to four credits per year, and the amount of credits you will need to have depends on your age at the time you become disabled.
Get Help Winning Social Security Disability Benefits for Your Eye Condition
Getting approved for Social Security disability benefits can be an uphill battle. If you suffer from an eye condition that prevents you from being able to work, it’s important to have experienced representation on your side to ensure the Social Security Administration receives all the documentation they need to approve your claim.
The Social Security Disability attorneys at Marc Whitehead & Associates can help you win the benefits that you deserve if your eye condition has made it impossible for you to maintain gainful employment and meet your financial obligations.
Call us today at (800) 562-9830 to schedule a free consultation.