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Dealing with a serious autoimmune disorder can significantly impact a person’s ability to work, often leading to work disability. Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks the body’s own cells, resulting in chronic inflammation and tissue damage. Diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and Type 1 Diabetes, are all examples of serious autoimmune disorders that can lead to debilitating physical limitations, impacting a person’s work ability.
For instance, Multiple Sclerosis can cause fatigue, difficulty walking, numbness or weakness, and even problems with coordination and balance. Rheumatoid Arthritis, on the other hand, results in painful swelling in the joints, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Similarly, Lupus may lead to fatigue, joint pain, and cognitive issues, and Type 1 Diabetes requires constant monitoring and control of blood sugar levels, which can be challenging in a work environment. So, the impact of these autoimmune disorders can be profound, often making it difficult for individuals to meet the physical and cognitive demands of their jobs. Not only that, but the unpredictable nature of these diseases, with periods of flare-ups and remission, can make steady employment a real challenge. It’s crucial to raise awareness about this issue, and ensure adequate support systems are in place for those affected.
If you or a loved one suffers from an autoimmune disease which impairs your ability to do your job – call Camporese Lalande Disability Lawyers today at 1-844-4-DISABILITY. Alternatively you can send a confidential email through our website and one of our intake specialists will get right back to you. And remember – we help disability claimants all over Ontario – and nationwide – and our consultations are 100% free.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s immune system, which normally protects us from harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses, mistakenly attacks healthy cells. In other words, the body fails to distinguish between self (its own cells and tissues) and non-self (foreign substances), leading to a misguided immune response against its own body.
The exact cause of autoimmune diseases remains largely unknown, but it is believed that a combination of genetic and environmental factors play a role. Some people may have genes that make them more susceptible to developing an autoimmune disease. Certain environmental triggers, such as infections, stress, or exposure to certain chemicals, might then activate the immune system in these individuals, leading to the development of an autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including the skin, joints, heart, lungs, brain, and nerves. The symptoms and severity of these diseases can vary widely, depending on the part of the body that is being attacked by the immune system. Treatment usually focuses on reducing immune system activity, managing symptoms, and maintaining the body’s ability to fight disease.
While it’s unknown what exactly causes autoimmune disease, there are a number of risk factors that seem to place some individuals at greater risk of developing an autoimmune disease than others:
Genetic inheritance: having someone in the family who has had an autoimmune disease greatly increases the probability of developing an autoimmune disease. Genetic information is not the only risk factor that contributes to the development of autoimmune diseases, but it remains an important factor to be aware of, particularly for individuals who have close family members who have an autoimmune disease. Having family members who have experienced an autoimmune disease before means a higher risk of sharing the same weak or problematic sequence that led to the family member’s autoimmune disease.
Exposure and environment: the home and work environment can be a significant factor in understanding why someone develops an autoimmune disease. It’s been shown that autoimmune disease can develop due to exposure to a toxic environment, and autoimmune disorders have also been connected to people working in certain industries. Toxins such as lead, mercury, and other industrial chemicals found in the places we live and work can be absorbed into our bodies and lead to autoimmune responses.
Drugs: medication and drug use have also been identified as possible factors in the development of autoimmune diseases. Drugs such as antibiotics may trigger an immune response, and certain medical procedures can also cause our bodies to release certain antibodies that can trigger an autoimmune disease. Substances like procainamide and hydralazine can trigger the onset of an autoimmune disease. The onset of autoimmune diseases like hemolytic anemia, leukopenia and thrombocytopenia have been connected to drug use.
Organic compounds: similar to the impact that chemicals or drugs could have on the human body, organic compounds can play an equally important role in the development of autoimmune diseases. Compounds like halogenated hydrocarbon trichloroethylene (TCE) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) have been linked to the development of a number of autoimmune disorders, including systemic sclerosis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Volatile organic compounds (VOC) like benzene and xylene can also cause autoimmune diseases, particularly when inhaled in large quantities, which can be the case for people in settings like chemical factories or oil refineries.
Nutritional deficiencies: the absence of certain chemicals, nutrients or minerals can also lead to the development of autoimmune diseases. Lack of vitamins A, B6, C and E can trigger an autoimmune response in the body, as well as deficiencies in certain minerals like magnesium and zinc. Autoimmune diseases are also more likely to occur in people who have had inadequate nutrition or whose diets are deficient in certain nutrients.
UV radiation: Over-exposure to radiation from sunlight can trigger the development of autoimmune diseases in certain individuals as a result of the body’s UV-sensitive immune system. Autoimmune diseases such as vitiligo, alopecia areata, and systemic lupus erythematosus have been connected to UV radiation.
Infections: a number of infections that have been connected to the development of a number of autoimmune diseases, from Group A beta-hemolytic streptococcus’s role in the development of rheumatic heart disease, certain intestinal infections linked to reactive arthritis, bacterial and viral infections with Guillain-Barre syndrome, and Epstein-Barr virus connected with the development of lupus and rheumatoid.
Lifestyle choices: smoking is connected with an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and may also have connections to the development of others, like ulcerative colitis, a form of IBD. Certain nutritional differences in certain cultures’ diets may also place certain people at more or less risk of developing autoimmune diseases. Although there is less information regarding the role that different diets play in the development of autoimmune diseases, it is an area that researchers believe reveals a great deal about how autoimmune diseases develop and are linked to consumption habits.
Gender: statistically, the number of people who develop autoimmune disease is overwhelmingly women; in Canada, out of the 4 million people with autoimmune disease, 75% are female. Autoimmune diseases can also manifest differently in men and women; for example, men with rheumatoid arthritis tend to develop joint pain, while women suffer more systemic symptoms. There’s no clear understanding of why this gender gap might be the case. Certain differences between men and women, which might help explain the vast difference in the number of cases of autoimmune disease, might include the interaction of estrogen and other hormones produced in much larger quantities than in men.
While an understanding of the mechanism of how autoimmune disease causes the body’s own immune system to turn on itself is gradually being formed, there is still a lot that isn’t understood about exactly what causes someone to develop autoimmune disease versus another person who, under similar conditions, does not experience the same outcome. Further complicating the issue is the large number of autoimmune diseases that have already been identified and the potential for others to be discovered in the future.
Due to the range of causes linked to the onset of autoimmune diseases, many conditions fall into the category of autoimmune disease. Today, there are over 80 recognized types of autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune diseases are identified as unique from each other based on the type of organ or tissue in the body that is attacked by the immune system, as well as the particular type of inflammation that occurs. (e.g. inflammation in the joints can be associated with rheumatoid arthritis, whereas inflammation of the thyroid gland is linked to Graves’ disease).
The symptoms that are present in the different types of autoimmune disease also help distinguish one from the other, which is particularly important in cases of autoimmune diseases affecting the same part of the body. The most commonly affected part of the body is the joints, and symptoms of autoimmune diseases impacting that region include inflammation, pain, stiffness and swelling. While many autoimmune diseases may be specific to a particular organ or body part, some are non-specific in nature and can result in overall dysfunction of the entire body:
Psoriasis: a skin condition that creates damaged skin that peels off and leaves inflamed patches across the body. People with psoriasis can go on to develop psoriatic arthritis, a condition that can result in painful joint inflammation.
Vitiligo: a skin condition that targets melanin-creating cells called melanocytes. As a result, individuals with this autoimmune disease can develop light patches of skin across their bodies, including the arms, legs, and face. While not usually life-threatening, vitiligo can be the cause of anxiety and stress due to the very visual nature of the condition.
Scleroderma: an autoimmune disease that affects the tissue of the skin and blood vessels. People with this autoimmune disease develop skin that is unusually thick and hard. In some cases, it can result in serious issues such as difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath and gangrene-causing ulcers in the fingers.
Rheumatoid arthritis: an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation of the joints of the body, in particularly the wrists and knees. It results in symptoms such as weight loss, fatigue, fever, weakness and sensitivity of the joints, and chronic pain.
Multiple sclerosis (MS): MS attacks the protective layer of tissue surrounding nerves that relay information to and from the brain. Nerve damage resulting from MS can mean any symptoms, from paralysis, weakness, loss of sight, and difficulty with coordination and balance.
Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS): an autoimmune disease that causes chronic physical pain that does not relieve itself. It can result in other related symptoms such as sensitivity to temperature change and touch, change in temperature and colour and experiencing a throbbing or burning feeling.
Graves’ disease: an autoimmune disease can attack the thyroid gland that can result in oversensitivity to heat, shaky hands, uncontrolled sweating and weakness.
Type 1 diabetes: the more serious form of diabetes, type 1 diabetes targets the pancreas and prevents the creation of insulin, which helps the body process sugar. Individuals with type 1 diabetes have symptoms that might include chronic hunger and thirst, slow recovery from injuries and wounds, itchy skin and difficulty with vision.
Celiac disease: an autoimmune disease that causes someone to develop an intolerance to gluten. People with Celiac disease can experience pain in their joints and abdominal area if they eat food with gluten.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): a disorder that leads to inflammation of the digestive tract. The inflamed sections can lead to the formation of a sensitive ulcer forming along the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, from the mouth, through the stomach and intestines, and through to the anus. This can result in different symptoms, such as diarrhea, pain in the abdominal area, painful bowel movements, fatigue, and weight loss. IBD includes autoimmune diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Neurosarcoidosis: a chronic condition caused by an autoimmune response in the body, it affects several important nerves, including the cranial and facial nerves (nerves controlling head and facial response) and the pituitary gland (which monitors hormone levels and functions of different glands and organs of the body). People who experience this condition may experience overall fatigue, headaches, and facial palsy (the weakness in the facial muscles resulting in a “droopy” appearance).
Hashimoto’s encephalopathy: a condition that affects the brain and related nervous systems. This autoimmune disorder can result in different effects, such as changes in behaviour, difficulty with cognitive tasks like thinking, memory and comprehension, and may also result in the onset of seizures.
Lupus: an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation. The autoimmune response results in generally manageable symptoms such as skin rash or lesions, joint pain and fatigue, with randomly timed periodic intense periods of pain, called “flare-ups,” during which symptoms can worsen significantly.
Optic neuritis: a condition that results in difficulty with sight as a result of inflammation (or swelling) that damages the optic nerves that relay visual information from the eyes to the brain. Aside from the loss of sight, people with this condition can experience symptoms including pain experienced during movement of the eyes and unusual vision issues such as seeing flashing lights or the loss of the perception of colour.
Central Nervous System Vasculitis (CNC): a condition with unknown causes but suspected to be an autoimmune condition, CNC causes the inflammation of blood vessels in the brain or spine. This can result in pain in the joints and abdominal area, issues with the nervous system, which can lead to numbness and chronic pain, and problems with the kidneys, leading to difficulty processing food wastes.
Myositis is an autoimmune disease that affects the body’s muscles, particularly those around the shoulders, hips and back. As a result of this autoimmune disease, individuals can feel increasing levels of weakness that can contribute to further injury in the future.
Hemolytic anemia: an autoimmune disease that affects red blood cells. The immune system attacks red blood cells, resulting in different symptoms presenting, such as headaches, dizziness, shortness of breath, or heart-related problems, including heart failure.
Sjogren’s syndrome: is an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own cells, specifically targeting the glands that produce tears and saliva. This leads to common symptoms like dry eyes and dry mouth. It can also affect other parts of the body, causing symptoms such as joint pain and fatigue. The exact cause of Sjogren’s syndrome is unknown, but it’s believed to involve a combination of genetic and environmental factors. While there is currently no cure for Sjogren’s syndrome, treatments are available to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life.
This is by no means a complete list of autoimmune diseases, but it presents some of the common ones that people may suffer from. Some of Canada’s most common autoimmune diseases are lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis, affecting over 400,000 people. Autoimmune diseases can be difficult to diagnose and manage, as each individual’s case is unique and can be disabling and lead to the need for long-term disability insurance. Autoimmune disease can lead to complications and issues with daily tasks, and in some cases, work disability, often due to some of the many symptoms associated with these diseases.
Symptoms of autoimmune diseases vary depending on the area of the body that is directly affected. Without medical help, those localized symptoms can relate to more general disabilities of the body. Autoimmune diseases can attack any part of the body, including:
Autoimmune diseases that affect the brain include neurosarcoidosis, optic neuritis and central nervous system vasculitis. The impact of an affected nervous system is wide-ranging and can impact any number of organ systems and body parts, depending on which specific nerves are affected:
Autoimmune diseases that impact the joints and muscles of the body include myositis and rheumatic arthritis. Individuals with this autoimmune disease can experience symptoms that affect their ability to move and function:
Conditions like psoriasis, vitiligo and scleroderma are autoimmune conditions that target the skin. The skin acts as an important layer of protection for the body and internal organs, and when the skin is compromised, there is an increased risk of developing other issues within the body. Symptoms that are common to these disorders cause the skin to become inflamed be damaged in other ways:
Blood vessel symptoms typically include Raynaud’s phenomenon and vasculitis. These conditions can cause a decrease in blood flow, meaning that organs and other parts of the body can have difficulty receiving necessary oxygen-rich blood. Symptoms include:
Numbness, tingling and burning sensations: Autoimmune diseases can impact the nerves that give us feeling in our bodies, resulting in numbness, tingling and burning sensations.
Discoloration of the skin: Due to changes in blood flow, autoimmune diseases can result in discoloured spots on your body.
As a result of autoimmune diseases that target the GI tract, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease, eating, drinking, as well as the processing and releasing body waste can be a painful experience for those who live with these forms of autoimmune disease:
Yes, autoimmune diseases can impact a person’s ability to work in various ways, and the degree of impact often depends on the specific condition and its severity. Autoimmune diseases typically cause a range of symptoms that can interfere with physical and cognitive abilities, which are vital for most forms of work.
For example, Sjogren’s Syndrome primarily affects the glands that produce tears and saliva, leading to dry eyes and mouth. However, it can also cause fatigue and joint pain, which can make it challenging for individuals to maintain the energy and physical ability required for many jobs. Similarly, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is characterized by periods of flares and remissions, leading to unpredictable availability and potential difficulty in performing consistent work.
Another condition, Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid, can lead to symptoms like rapid heart rate, hand tremors, irritability, and fatigue, which can interfere with both physical and mental tasks at work.
Inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis can cause severe digestive symptoms, necessitating frequent bathroom breaks and potentially leading to significant discomfort or pain while working.
Rheumatoid arthritis, characterized by inflammation in the joints, can lead to pain and physical limitations, impacting the ability to perform tasks requiring fine motor skills or heavy labor.
Autoimmune conditions like myasthenia gravis or Guillain-Barre syndrome can cause muscle weakness, which can severely limit physical ability.
It’s important to note that the disease known as insulin growth factor deficiency (IGF deficiency) is typically not classified as an autoimmune disease, but it can certainly cause a host of problems including growth delay in children and metabolic issues in adults.
Overall, the impact on work ability depends on a variety of factors including the specific autoimmune disease, the severity and predictability of symptoms, the individual’s job requirements, and the level of flexibility and accommodations provided by the workplace.
In Canada, whether you qualify for long-term disability (LTD) benefits due to an autoimmune disease will depend on the specific terms of your LTD insurance policy and the severity of your condition. Typically, these policies require that you be totally disabled to qualify for benefits.
“Total disability” is often defined in one of two ways: “own occupation” or “any occupation”. In the “own occupation” definition, total disability means that due to illness or injury, you’re unable to perform the essential tasks of your specific occupation. So, if your autoimmune disease prevents you from doing your current job, you would likely qualify for benefits under this definition.
However, many LTD insurance policies in Canada include a change in the definition of total disability after a certain period, usually 24 months. After this time, total disability often shifts from the “own occupation” definition to the “any occupation” definition. Under “any occupation”, you’re considered totally disabled if you’re unable to perform any job for which you’re reasonably suited by education, training, or experience, not just your specific occupation.
Therefore, if your autoimmune disease is severe enough that it prevents you from performing any job you could reasonably be expected to do given your skills and qualifications, you would likely qualify for benefits under the “any occupation” definition.
However, navigating LTD insurance denials can be complex and varies from case to case. It is always advisable to seek the advice of a lawyer from an experience long-term disability lawyer if your disability benefits have been terminated.
If you or a loved one suffers from an autoimmune disease and has been denied long-term disability insurance benefits, contact our long-term disability lawyers today. We are here to help you secure the disability benefits you deserve so that you can focus on your recovery without added financial burdens.
We have extensive experience in representing disaiblity claimants denied their long-term disability benefits at all stages – and we are more than happy to provide you with the advice and legal guidance you need.
Call us for free no matter where you are in Ontario, or Nationwide at 1-844-4-DISABILITY. You can also send us a confidential email through our website or inquire through any form on our website. You can also CHAT live 24/7 and your discussion will be provided to our intake person without delay and we will get right back to you.emember – all our consultations are free and if we decide to work together – our disability law firm will never, under any circumstances as you for money upfront.
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Yes, many people with autoimmune diseases can qualify for long-term disability benefits if their condition significantly impacts their ability to work. The specifics will depend on your insurance policy. Medical documentation of your condition, its severity, and how it impacts your daily life will be crucial in the application process.
Many different autoimmune diseases can qualify for long-term disability benefits. These might include, but are not limited to, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, celiac disease, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease. Again, the key factor is how the disease impacts your ability to work.
You’ll typically need comprehensive medical records that document your diagnosis, symptoms, the progression of your condition, and the treatments you’ve tried. It can also be helpful to have statements from your treating physicians about how your disease impacts your ability to perform job-related tasks. Sometimes, detailed personal accounts or accounts from friends and family members about how your daily life is affected can also be beneficial.
Yes, you might still qualify for benefits even if you can work part-time. This will depend on your specific disability insurance policy or the regulations set by the Social Security Administration. You may be eligible for benefits if you can demonstrate that you’ve experienced a loss of income due to your reduced capacity to work.
The process can vary greatly in length – but generally the process takes a few months. The timeline can depend on several factors, including the completeness of your initial application, the specific requirements of your insurance policy, or the delay in your medical providers sending in your clinical priductions. Ensuring you have thorough medical documentation and following the application instructions carefully can help prevent delays.