Emphysema is a fairly common condition that can leave many people struggling with how to pay the bills because they can no longer work. Many people with emphysema find it difficult to breathe, so people in physical jobs often are unable to work for extended periods of time or even indefinitely. Getting the help that’s necessary is essential whenever you have a major health issue that will cause you to lose work and a paycheck.
What is Emphysema?
Emphysema is one of the diseases under the umbrella term of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, otherwise known as COPD. It’s a condition in which the air sacs, called alveoli, in the lungs either become floppy or damaged. When they become damaged, the walls fall down, and they become a few large air sacs instead of many smaller air sacs. Many people with emphysema experience shortness of breath because of the damage to their lungs.
One of the most common reasons that people get emphysema is from smoking cigarettes, but many types of long-term exposure to irritants can cause emphysema. Some other types of tobacco products that can cause damage include pipes and cigars. Secondhand smoke can also serve as the irritant that damages lungs. Dust and chemical fumes can also play a role in developing emphysema and other forms of COPD. In rare cases, a genetic disorder called alpha-1 antitrypsin disease has a hand in causing the disease, but this is very uncommon.
While smoking and exposure to other irritants is one of the most common factors involved in whether or not a person has emphysema, age is another critical factor, with most people who have emphysema being over the age of 40. Abstaining from smoking or quitting if a person is a smoker is one of the most important steps that a person can take to reduce the likelihood that they’ll develop emphysema later in life because the damage isn’t reversible.
Symptoms of Emphysema
The symptoms of emphysema can change over time, and they often get worse with age. In the beginning stages of emphysema, the person might not even notice them because they only manifest as a light cough or slight fatigue. In fact, much of the lung tissue often becomes damaged before the person notices the symptoms.
Coughing and wheezing are two of the most common symptoms, but as the disease progresses, the symptoms can also become more severe. For instance, people with emphysema often experience higher vulnerability to certain kinds of respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis caused by cold and flu viruses.
Some other common symptoms of emphysema include a chronic cough that produces a lot of mucus, shortness of breath when doing physical activities especially, tightness in the chest, and a whistling or squeaking sound when breathing, which is caused by the damaged air sacs. When someone has emphysema, it’s common for them to have a smoker’s cough even when they haven’t smoked in years.
Eventually, emphysema causes shortness of breath for people even when they’re just sitting or standing. People with severe emphysema might also begin to notice that their lips or skin underneath their fingernails turn blue or gray. And other people might have difficulties staying mentally alert and physically active because of a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Treatment for Emphysema
One of the best ways to treat emphysema is to avoid it all together by abstaining from smoking and ensuring distance from second-hand irritants, such as cigarette smoke or dusts. Once a person has emphysema, it’s critical that they stay away from these types of irritants to lessen their symptoms. Quitting smoking might be the first step that a person takes if they haven’t already done it. Limiting interactions with people who are smoking is another important step is part of the problem is that they’re constantly around second-hand smoke.
Talking to a doctor about the best eating and exercise plans can also be helpful because some types of exercise can strengthen the lungs and other muscles that help people breathe.
There are also medications that can help open the airways so that breathing is easier. For instance, some people with emphysema might use an inhaler with bronchodilators to relax the muscles and open the airways. In some cases, a doctor might prescribe an inhaler with a steroid to further strengthen the lungs.
Since people with emphysema are particularly prone to infections when they get a cold or the flu, getting flu shots and other inoculations before they get sick is an important step that can help keep them healthier and avoid infections. If they do get sick, they might need to use antibiotics to get rid of the infection.
Oxygen therapy is a treatment where a person uses an oxygen tank to breathe. This treatment is available to people who have severe emphysema and don’t get enough oxygen in their bloodstream.
Finally, some people who have very bad emphysema are eligible to get surgery to remove damaged portions of the lungs. Otherwise, surgery might also involve a lung transplant.
Disability Benefits for Emphysema
Some people with emphysema will experience breathing problems that are significant enough to make it difficult or impossible to work. People who choose to apply for benefits will need to meet specific criteria outlined in the SSA Blue Book. People applying for benefits for emphysema have two basic ways that they can apply. One of the first ways is to apply for benefits based on the criteria for COPD.
There are two tests that a person must undergo to show that they qualify for benefits under the COPD listing. The first test involves taking a spirometry test, which measures the amount of air and the force with which the person can blow the air. People applying for benefits under the COPD listing must undergo this test that’s administered by one of the SSA doctors even if the applicant has already undergone the test with their own doctor.
The applicant must also provide the Social Security Administration with a diagnostic imaging test, such as an X-Ray or CT Scan. This type of imaging will be able to show the SSA where the damage to the lungs are located.
Another way that a person can qualify for benefits is if their doctor puts so many limitations on what the applicant can do that there aren’t any jobs that the applicant is capable of doing. In this process, the SSA will look at previous roles that the applicant has done to determine whether or not their skill set and abilities match with any jobs.
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 Emphysema, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.