Hidradenitis suppurativa is a rare and painful skin condition that can affect ones daily life. Since there isn’t a cure, those living with this skin disease have to navigate through the pain on a daily basis. This can prove to be extremely difficult during an extreme flare-up. Due to the disabling effects of this disease, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has classified this as a disability that qualifies individuals diagnosed with the disease to apply for Social Security disability benefits.
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a skin condition that produces painful bumps under the skin, typically in hair roots or near sweat glands. The disease tends to start off with bumps that appear to look like pimples in areas where pimples wouldn’t normally appear. The most common area is on the armpits. However, they can appear on the inner thighs, buttocks area, groin area, or around the breasts. These bumps can break open and leave scars that can eventually cause the skin to tunnel due all of the scarring. While the bumps can be painful, the tunnels that the scars leave can cause more pain.
This condition tends to start during puberty, but can also show up in the 20s. While doctors aren’t completely sure of the cause, there’s a common belief that the skin disease is caused by blockage in hair follicles. It may be hereditary, but is more common in women than men. There may be a link between the condition and obesity. The condition is not due to bad hygiene, an infection, and it cannot be spread from one person to another. It’s also not caused by shaving or using certain deodorants.
Symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa
The main symptom of this condition is a bump that may look like a pimple that is forming in an odd area such as the underarms and it may cause pain. Others may experience the bumps as blackheads or cysts. It typically starts off as one bump and can quickly multiply. The bumps may contain liquid, which will have a foul odor if it breaks open. Once it breaks open, it may leave a scar. If this happens multiple times, individuals can develop tracts or tunnels of scar tissue that can connect under the skin from points where the bumps have developed and broken open. These extensive skin lesions may disappear, but they always tend to come back. Stress, heat, smoking, or hormonal changes may make symptoms worse.
Complications can arise from these symptoms. These painful bumps can really affect individuals’ quality of life. Since the bumps are often in areas where the skin rubs together, it can be difficult to move without feeling constant pain. This often impacts individuals’ mobility. The lesions coupled with the limited mobility can cause individuals with this condition to isolate themselves and result in depression. Physical complications include infections, permanent changes to the skin, and on very rare occasions it can cause skin cancer to develop. It’s extremely important that individuals get an early diagnosis so that the condition can be treated quickly.
If individuals start to notice that they have a painful bump or several painful bumps forming under their arms, between the thighs, around the groin or buttocks area, it may be time to see a doctor. Since hidradenitis suppurativa presents symptoms that are very similar to folliculitis, it’s recommended that individuals presenting these symptoms see a dermatologist. Dermatologists will be able to diagnose the skin disorder properly. A diagnosis of hidradenitis suppurativa can be made by just examining the bumps, but doctors may take samples of the fluid found in the bump for testing if there is any. This will help rule out any infections or other conditions. Doctors may also ask how long the bumps have been present, how often flare-ups occur, and take a look at individual’s medical histories.
Treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa
Unfortunately, there isn’t a cure for this condition. Treatment will depend on how severe the symptoms are and how far along the condition has progressed. If the symptoms are mild, doctors may treat the condition with medicine. Some of the medications doctors may try include antibiotics (in the form of pills or creams), anti-inflammatory pills, Humira or Remicade, steroids (in the form of pills or an injection), pain relievers, and/or birth control pills or other form of hormone therapy. Doctors may try one at a time or a combination of medication to see what eases symptoms the best.
If the condition is severe and scarring has occurred, doctors may suggest that the individual undergoes surgery. The surgery can be as minor as surgically draining the bumps. Unfortunately, this type of medical treatment can cause temporary relief, but a new flare-up can occur and bumps can reappear. Laser surgery may be suggested to remove the lesions if they have yet to cause tunneling. If tunneling has occurred, doctors may surgically remove the tissue to uncover the tunnels. If symptoms are severe, doctors may choose to either surgically remove the damaged tissue with electrosurgery or performing a skin graft. Skin grafting is the most extreme treatment option as it requires surgeons to remove all of the affected skin and replace it with new skin to close the wound.
Getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for hidradenitis suppurativa
The SSA recognizes hidradenitis suppurativa as a disability under the list of Skin Conditions. However, qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits isn’t as simple as just having the medical condition. Individuals have to apply and provide medical evidence that they have skin lesions in both underarms, both sides of the groin, or area around the genitals and buttocks. In addition to that requirement, individuals must also prove that the lesions have lasted at least three months even while getting treatment from a doctor. This is why it’s extremely important that individuals see a doctor right away. The doctor is able to provide medical records proving the length and severity of the condition to the SSA. The record should also show the round of treatments that the doctor has prescribed along with its progress or lack thereof.
If the medical records provide enough proof of the severity of the condition, the individual must also prove that the symptoms prevent the individual from working. Sufficient proof not only includes the inability to work in their current position, but also in any other position they may be qualified to work in based on the individual’s skills, experience, and education. The SSA may even ask that the individual provide proof that they cannot maintain employment in a role that takes the limitations of the condition under consideration. For example, if someone’s current role includes a lot of movement and the symptoms are impairing their mobility, the SSA may recommend that the individual try a desk job. If the individual tries a desk job and finds that the symptoms are still too severe to allow them to do the job properly, the SSA may then relent and award the individual SSD benefits.
How we can help
The SSA often puts applicants through the wringer to prove that they need financial assistance due to their disabling condition. It’s not an easy process and can be taxing on individuals currently dealing with a disabling condition. For this reason, it’s highly recommended that individuals applying for benefits contact an experience disability lawyer. Our lawyers at Osterhout Berger Disability Law firm are experienced with SSDI applications. One of our disability attorneys expertly walk individuals through the process and guide them on the proper paperwork that the SSA requires in addition to the application. Allow us to help with the process by scheduling a free consultation today.