Sorting Out Fibromyalgia Intricacies to Prove Disability - Part 1


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Sorting Out the Intricacies of Fibromyalgia to Prove Disability, Part 1

Published on May 5th, 2020 by Eric Slepian

At Slepian Smith Ellexson, PLLC, our SSI lawyers in Glendale, AZ help Arizonans with fibromyalgia prove their eligibility for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) based on the disabling impact of this impairment. Fibromyalgia (FM) has many symptoms that are subjective, so careful preparation of the application or appeal includes extensive medical assessment as well as a compilation of documentation to support subjective complaints.

A new Psychology Today blog talks about how difficult it can be to diagnose FM because of its myriad co-existing diagnoses and the subjectivity of its symptoms – rarely measurable through a lab test or scan. FM is a medical condition primarily causing chronic pain – often in muscles and joints – and severe, sometimes overwhelming fatigue.

Other Symptoms of FM May Include:

  • Memory problems
  • Cognitive impairment like diminished reasoning ability or confusion
  • Muscle weakness
  • Heightened sensitivity to and discomfort from touch
  • Changes in how pain manifests
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) upset like irritable bowel syndrome

Proper Diagnosis Can Be Elusive

It can be difficult for doctors to diagnose FM, a condition that comes on gradually. Its symptoms also come and go, so the day of a medical appointment might be a good one for the patient. Or, one symptom may flare up without indication that it is part of a broader syndrome, rather than an isolated impairment. For example, a patient may work with a GI doctor on GI disturbances without the physician recognizing the symptoms are part of a larger FM diagnosis.

Psychology Today cites a study that found medical professionals missed FM diagnoses in almost half of FM patients and misdiagnosed it in about 11% of cases – such as misidentifying it as arthritis. The article explains that there are still physicians who do not believe FM is a legitimate medical condition, despite the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 4 million adults have FM in the U.S.

In part 2 of this post, we will talk about how the Social Security Administration (SSA) analyzes whether a claimant has FM and whether the claimant meets the federal definition of disability, as well as how a lawyer can help in an SSDI or SSI claim based on FM.

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