Individuals with dysautonomia may not experience the same symptoms. This is because any disorder that deals with the autonomic nervous system is classified under this term. It’s like saying someone has an autoimmune disease. There are various types and they all present different symptoms. Some of the disorders under this term can present disabling symptoms that can leave individuals unable to work. If this results in financial instability, individuals may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, this will all depend on the severity of their symptoms.
What is dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia is a broad term that is used to describe any disorder that involves the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS maintains the body’s “automatic” functions like a steady internal temperature, regular breathing, steady blood pressure, and a steady heart rate. An imbalance in any of the “automatic” functions of the body could result in dysautonomia.
The cause can be related to a failure in the sympathetic or parasympathetic parts of the nervous system, but can also be caused by overactive actions in the ANS. Depending on the type, it can be related to an underlying condition or can stand alone as its own condition.
Symptoms of dysautonomia
While symptoms vary based on the specific type, some common symptoms include:
- Low blood pressure
- The inability to stay standing
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Lack of appetite
- An irregular heartbeat
- Difficulty maintaining a constant body temperature
- Noise or light sensitivity
- Difficulty concentrating
These are very broad symptoms and could be indicative of a number of conditions. Some individuals may not even experience any symptoms at all as they may not present themselves in an obvious way. For this reason, these conditions are often difficult to diagnose.
Types of dysautonomia
There are quite a few different types of dysautonomia, so we’ll go through just a few.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
POTS is a condition that causes individuals to experience an increased heart rate when they stand. Aside from the increased heart rate (or tachycardia), individuals with POTS may also experience lightheadedness, fainting, palpitations, shaking, chest pain, difficulty breathing, fatigue, upset stomach, and may be overly sensitive to temperatures. Symptoms can be minor, but they’re often severe enough to leave individuals unable to perform daily tasks. Doctors believe that this syndrome is caused by an underlying medical condition, but often have a hard time pinpointing the condition. POTS can be diagnosed through a series of tests including the Tilt Table Test that requires a patient to lay down on a table that moves to various angles so that doctors can monitor the heart rate and blood pressure with every move. Treatment involves addressing the increased heart rate. While medication may be prescribed, treatment will most likely center lifestyle changes.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA)
MSA is a neurological condition that is pretty rare. Symptoms are similar to Parkinson’s disease symptoms, but the damage may be more widespread in MSA. Symptoms include tremors, balance issues, difficulty speaking, headaches, a sudden drop in blood pressure, fainting, confusion, nausea, difficulty sleeping, and more. Once the condition progresses, the individual will have trouble with their motor skills. The cause of this condition is not currently known. Since the symptoms are so similar to Parkinson’s disease, it’s often misdiagnosed. There also isn’t a cure for this condition and there aren’t any treatments that can slow down the progression of the symptoms. Treatment is mainly based on making sure that the individual is comfortable. As the symptoms progress, the individual may find it extremely difficult to perform daily tasks.
This is one of the most common types. This condition happens when blood pools down to the legs and feet. This causes the individual to faint since the blood isn’t circulating properly. Essentially, a properly functioning ANS should have all the “automatic” functions of the body working properly. However, a malfunctioning ANS means that the functions aren’t communicating with one another, which results in poor circulation and fainting. While fainting is the main symptom, individuals with neurocardiogenic syncope may experience nausea, blurred vision, lightheadedness, and palpitations. The fainting can be mild and only happen once, but it can also be consistent in some individuals. A series of tests can help diagnose this condition, but a lot of them will be based on ruling out other types of syncope. Treatment will mainly focus on lifestyle changes, but doctors may prescribe medication to regulate the individual’s blood pressure and heart rate.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy
This type is associated with individuals with diabetes. This condition impacts the nerves that control the heart, blood pressure levels, and glucose levels. Symptoms can include an increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, excessive sweating, low blood pressure when standing, constipation, and difficulty with digestion. Treatment focuses managing the diabetes.
This condition is often associated with individuals who have had a spinal cord injury. Due to the damage from the injury, the ANS malfunctions and causes the blood pressure to spike. Symptoms may include headaches, a low heart rate, nausea, blotchy skin, clammy skin around the site of the injury. Treatment is centered around treating the spinal cord injury.
The baroreflex is responsible for maintaining a healthy blood pressure. If this malfunctions, the blood pressure can either be too low when an individual is resting or too high when they’re stressed or exercising. Symptoms can include excessive sweating, headaches, and an abnormal heart rate. Treatment includes medication that regulates the individual’s heart rate and blood pressure as well as stress management.
There are other types, but most of them are often associated with other types of conditions. It’s important to share symptoms with doctors so that they can properly diagnose and treat the condition properly.
Treatment for dysautonomia
Treatment for this condition varies based on the type. If the condition is primary (meaning it’s not brought on by another condition), it can’t be cured and treatment will center around easing the symptoms. If it is secondary (meaning it is brought on by another condition), treatment will focus on treating the original condition. Once a proper diagnosis has been given on the type the individual has, treatment will also include physical therapy, exercising, and often talk therapy to help the individual mentally. Medication may also be prescribed to help ease symptoms and the course of treatment can change overtime depending on how the individual’s treatment plan is progressing. Individuals with this condition will typically have multiple doctors and it’s important for all the doctors to work together to provide a plan that best fits the individual.
Getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for dysautonomia
Unfortunately, dysautonomia isn’t specifically listed in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. However, symptoms can still qualify individuals with this condition to collect SSI benefits. Since the specific condition isn’t listed, it’s important that individuals work with their doctors in conjunction with an experienced disability lawyer to ensure that their disability claim is properly filled out. The SSA will check your medical records to find proof of disabling symptoms. Then, they will have the individual prove that the disabling symptoms prevent them from working. The SSA may even go as far as checking the individual’s work history and attempt to have them work in a role that requires less exertion than their previous roles.
For example, if the individual has POTS or neurocardiogenic syncope, the SSA may recommend that the individual find a job that allows them to work from home so that they can control their environment. If symptoms still prevent the individual from successfully performing work tasks, they may then be granted disability benefits.
How we can help
The application process for SSDI can be extremely daunting. It requires a lot of paperwork and can often lead to multiple rounds of document submission just to prove that the condition is serious enough to warrant disability benefits. Those with system disorders have a harder time qualifying for benefits since the symptoms, rather than the condition, are what qualifies the individual to receive SSDI benefits. Working with an experienced disability attorney can make all the difference. Our lawyers at Osterhout Berger Disability Law firm have experience with disability applications and are ready to help individuals through the process. Schedule a free consultation today and let us help make this process easier.