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Lyme Disease – Hard to Diagnose and a Hidden Cause of Disability

Not everyone knows what Lyme Disease is, but many who silently suffer from it know how limiting it can be.  Once the disease progress, Lyme can cause a large variety of symptoms which impact a person’s ability to work.  Finding a doctor who can diagnose Lyme Disease is often a challenge as its symptoms can be confused with other conditions.  By that time, many people who suffer from Lyme Disease find that they can no longer work.  At that point, getting your doctors to document how your symptoms are impacting your abilities is crucial.

Few doctors understand Lyme enough to be able to identify it, yet its impact is quite pervasive.  For Dana Parish, the author of a recent article titled Arrogance and Ignorance: A Catastrophe for Lyme Sufferers (Huff Post Health Living, 2/10/2016), finding a doctor that actually knew enough to diagnose Lyme Disease was a challenge.  One has to wonder why, as it is reported that over 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease in the U.S. each year.  Many know the disease as most commonly resulting from a tick bite, but from there, the symptoms cover a broad spectrum, including:

  • Fatigue, often quite extreme
  • Fever
  • Flu-like illness
  • Headache
  • Joint Pain & Swelling, Bone Pain
  • Malar flush (red ear lobes)
  • Jaw / TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) pain
  • Neck & Back Pain
  • Skin rash

Depending on how severe these symptoms are, they may have an immediate impact on working.  Of course, not everyone has disabling level symptoms.  However, many who file a claim for disability insurance, ERISA disability, or Social Security Disability benefits do not realize that many of these symptoms come from their Lyme Disease.  Even when they do, they often do not report all of their symptoms to health care professionals.  This is a mistake.  Even if one cannot see Lyme Disease with the naked eye or see some of the symptoms it causes, the disease can be very disabling.

Lyme Disease can rob a person of their ability to get through a regular eight hour day due to fatigue.  The aching or pain in the joints or in the neck or back can be so nagging that it distracts someone to the point of not being able to focus on work.  The headaches can become so common that just getting through one task is a challenge.  Even just the unpredictability of the symptoms can make someone totally unreliable because of their ability to get to work on time or because of how much work they are missing.

Remember, just because someone cannot see what you are going through does not mean that it isn’t real.  It also does not mean that a condition like Lyme Disease is not impacting your ability to work.  If you file a claim for disability, be sure to document every symptom you have, and how each of those symptoms is impacting your day to day activities, including how it prevents you from doing a full day at work.  Tell your doctors and ask them to put this information in their notes.  To an insurance adjuster who cannot see your problems, there is no better way to show why you are disabled.

If you have Lyme Disease or think you may have it, here are some helpful Lyme Disease Resources:

Lyme Disease Associaiton, Inc. (https://www.lymediseaseassociation.org/index.php)

Centers for Disease Control – Lyme Disease (https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/)

LymeDisease.org (https://www.lymedisease.org/)

Lyme Disease Is More Common Than Previously Thought (/blog/lyme-disease-far-more-common-than-previously-known/)

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