People who don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the blood to all of the organs in their bodies will often suffer from a range of difficulties, including fatigue and unexplained, severe pain. Sickle cell anemia is one instance in which otherwise healthy people can be absolutely crippled by their body’s inability to make healthy red blood cells so that their bodies function properly. Anyone who has sickle cell anemia should look into getting disability benefits through the Social Security Administration’s program. While there’s no guarantee that all applicants will receive benefits, knowing who would qualify and what kind of benefits are available is essential to anyone who is unable to go to work because of sickle cell anemia.
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is actually part of a group of disorders that’s called sickle cell disease. People with sickle cell anemia don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. The disease is called sickle cell anemia because some of the red blood cells that are in the bodies of people with sickle cell anemia are shaped more like crescent moons rather than the round discs that they’re supposed to be shaped as. Because of the shape and because they’re sticky, the sickle-shaped red blood cells can sometimes get trapped in the smaller blood vessels, slowing down or stopping the blood flow to that area of the body.
While there isn’t a cure for sickle cell anemia, there are treatments that can alleviate pain and prevent complications that are associated with sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutated gene that gets passed from both the mother and the father to the child. People with sickle cell anemia have abnormal hemoglobin that causes the red blood cells to become misshapen and sticky. In order for a person to have sickle cell anemia, they have to be born with the gene. Currently, the African American population is most prone to sickle cell anemia.
Additionally, people with sickle cell anemia might have differing likelihoods of having certain symptoms and complications. Doctors will monitor for certain complications, such as stroke, so that they can provide the best care possible.
Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia
There’s a wide range of potential symptoms of sickle cell anemia. One of the most logical consequences of sickle cell anemia is that people with it often suffer from anemia because the red blood cells that are supposed to live for about 120 days break apart well before that.
It’s also very common for people with sickle cell anemia to experience what are called pain crises. During these episodes, people experience pain in and near blood vessels and in the bones because the sickle red blood cells get caught, causing pain. The frequency and duration of pain crises can vary. Some people only experience pain crises for a few hours, and some people experience them for a few weeks. Additionally, people with sickle cell anemia can have varying intensities of pain, and some people might only have pain crises a couple of times per year while other people experience them once per week.
Swelling in the hands and feet occur when blood flow is blocked, and infections are more common in people with this disease. Additionally, children and teens with sickle cell anemia can have delayed growth or puberty. In order for the body to grow, it needs oxygen, which is carried in on the red blood cells. People with sickle cell anemia will have more difficulties growing because not all of their bodies are receiving the oxygen that they need.
Some people also develop infections in the eyes that cause vision problems because the sickle cells are clogging the vessels around the eyes are located.
Fever, pale skin, yellow around the eyes or on the skin, and signs of a stroke are other symptoms that all family members should be looking for.
Treatments for Sickle Cell Anemia
There isn’t a cure for sickle cell anemia, but there are treatments that can help alleviate the symptoms and keep the person’s overall health in better condition. More specifically, sickle cell anemia management involves lowering the frequency of pain episodes and preventing further complications.
To make people with sickle cell anemia healthier, there are several types of medications that the doctor can prescribe. For instance, L-glutamine oral powder can help reduce the frequency of pain crises. Hydroxyurea is another type of drug that can reduce the frequency of pain episodes, and it can sometimes reduce the need for blood transfusions. Crizanlizumab is another type of drug that can reduce the frequency of pain crises.
Reducing the anemia of people with sickle cell anemia is another facet of many patients’ treatment plans, and Voxelotor is one type of drug that can help with anemia. And while it’s less common, in some cases, doctors can prescribe narcotics to reduce the intensity of pain.
Since red blood cells are necessary to help take care of people when they’re ill or have an infection, it’s especially important that people with sickle cell anemia stay healthy. That’s why some people will receive penicillin to prevent infections. It’s also especially important that parents of children with sickle cell anemia keep them up to date on their immunizations.
Blood transfusions are often given to people with sickle cell anemia so that the recipient can have more normal red blood cells in their body to reduce symptoms.
Disability Benefits for Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is listed as a hematological disorder in the Social Security Administration’s Blue Book. To be eligible for benefits, the condition must leave the person completely disabled. Additionally, applicants must have already earned the requisite number of credits to be eligible for benefits.
One of the most important parts to applying for SSA disability benefits for sickle cell anemia is to have lab reports that confirm the diagnosis. If there are not lab tests available, a note from a physician that strongly indicates that the person has sickle cell anemia might suffice. The Social Security Administration will do reasonable things to get lab tests.
In addition to showing that the applicant has sickle cell anemia, they also need to show that they have symptoms that are disabling. Mainly, the Social Security Administration will look at the pain crises, complications to anemia, and hemoglobin levels.
Usually, applicants will need to meet at least one of these three criteria. The first one is evidence of pain crises that have required the injection of narcotics via an IV at least 6 times during the last 12 months. Additionally, each treatment must be at least 30 days apart.
A second option is three hospital stays within the prior 12 months due to complication to anemia. Each stay must be at least 48 hours long, and they must be at least 30 days apart.
A third option is to have hemoglobin levels that are seven grams or less per deciliter. Each recording of this must be at least 30 days apart and must happen at least 3 times over a 12-month period.
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 Sickle Cell Anemia, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.