Irritable bowel syndrome can make many parts of life uncomfortable, and it can even make some people sick enough that they have difficulties going to work every day. Many people who are ill need to stay home to care for themselves until they’re well enough to handle the pressures of their work environment. While not everyone with irritable bowel syndrome will quality, there are instances when someone with the condition could meet the requirements to gain disability benefits through the Social Security Administration’s disability benefits. Understanding some of the symptoms of IBS and how to tell if someone will qualify can help people make better informed decisions on if they want to apply and how they should go about an application.
What Is Irritable Bowel Syndrome?
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is a chronic condition that affects the large intestines. The condition causes cramping, diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, and other types of abdominal pain. While IBS is a common condition, only a small percentage of people with it experience severe symptoms, and most people can manage the condition by managing their diets and keeping their stress levels down.
There isn’t a known cause for IBS, but there are some factors that probably play a role in the condition. One of them is the way that the muscles of the bowels contract. When the muscles contract hard and quickly, they move the food along more quickly, which results in diarrhea. If the contractions are weaker, the food will move slowly, which can lead to constipation.
There’s also some reason to believe that the way that the nervous system in the abdominal region interacts with the brain’s signals also has something to do with IBS. If the signals between the brain and digestive system are poorly coordinated, it’s more likely that the person will experience IBS symptoms.
Severe infections in the gut and viruses are also associated with IBS. For example, if someone has very bad diarrhea, this can throw off the system enough that a person could develop IBS.
Stress levels in a person’s life also play a crucial role in whether or not a person has IBS. Most notably, people who experience high levels of stress early in their lives are more likely to experience IBS as they get older.
Finally, changes in gut microbes can lead to IBS. The microbes in a person’s gut are responsible for maintaining a healthy digestive system. If the bacteria levels are off, it’s likely that the person will experience higher levels of IBS symptoms.
Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome
The exact symptoms of IBS can vary from one person to the next, but there are three general symptoms that are extremely common. One of the first symptoms that a person might notice is bloating, cramping, and pain in the abdominal region that comes when a person needs to pass a stool. Most people will also notice that the appearance of their bowels have changed. Thirdly, most people with IBS also notice that the frequency with which they have to pass a stool changes.
More specifically, cramping is one type of pain that’s associated with IBS. People with this condition will often experience IBS cramping because of diarrhea or constipation, but passing the stool or diarrhea should clear up the pain and cramping for the time being.
The bloating and gas that’s associated with IBS often occurs with diarrhea because the more rapid contractions of the bowels cause the food to move along the digestive system more quickly, but it also causes gas.
Although IBS isn’t the only cause of mood disorders, many people with IBS experience depression, anxiety, and other mood disturbances. And because stress can make IBS worse, the depression and anxiety often increases IBS symptoms.
Because many of the above symptoms can be symptomatic of more serious diseases, doctors also check for other symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, weight loss, nausea, fever, and onset of symptoms after age 50. These symptoms indicate that there might be a more serious condition, so people who are experiencing them should talk to their doctor right away.
Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
There are some treatments that a person with IBS can do for themselves at home, some that will require that they get an over-the-counter medicine, and some medications that are specifically for IBS.
Some of the things that a person can do at home is to make sure that they get plenty of rest, exercise to reduce stress, eat foods high in fiber, and drink plenty of water. Additionally, if there are any foods that trigger IBS symptoms, such as gluten, those foods should be avoided.
Some doctors will also suggest that the patient add in supplements and over-the-counter medicines. For instance, people who are prone to constipation might decide to use a laxative. Fiber supplements are another option for people with constipation. People who experience diarrhea might also choose to use anti-diarrheal medicines, which can often be purchased without a prescription.
Anticholinergic medications can relieve painful muscles spasms of the intestines, and tricyclic antidepressants can help control depression associated with IBS, but they can also help regulate the activity of the neurons that control the intestines. Additionally, SSRI medications can help people with depression and those who experience pain and constipation.
There are also several medications that are specifically for IBS. For instance, alosetron is a medication that can slow the rate at which waste passes through the lower bowel. Rifaximin, linaclotide, and eluxadoline are other medications that doctors can prescribe that are specifically intended for people with IBS.
Disability Benefits for Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Some people with severe IBS will have difficulties maintaining a regular work schedule because of their condition. While IBS isn’t specifically listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, which is the listing of all covered medical conditions, some people with IBS might be able to gain benefits if they’re able to show that their condition is disruptive enough to bar them from being able to work.
First and foremost, in order to qualify for benefits, the symptoms must be continuously present for at least 12 months straight. This can be difficult for many people because IBS is often intermittent in nature. Secondly, there must be documentation from a doctor about the applicant’s symptoms.
Within the documentation, there should be documentation that shows that the symptoms are severe enough that it makes it difficult to work at the same pace. For instance, if productivity of the applicant is down by 20%, then the applicant should be deemed disabled. Additionally, if frequent bathroom breaks are necessary, then the types of work that the applicant can do is also limited.
The SSA takes this information from the applicant’s doctor and compares it to the types of work that the applicant has done in the past and is currently doing. This test is called the residual functional capacity test, and if there is no suitable work for the applicant, then they could qualify for disability benefits.
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 Irritable Bowel Syndrome, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.