Pulmonary hypertension is high blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries, which supply blood to the lungs. It is a rare but serious condition where the pulmonary arteries become narrowed. Because there is not enough space in the arteries for the blood to pass through, the right side of the heart must work harder to pump blood through the arteries. This also causes the right ventricle of the heart to become enlarged. Gradually, as the right ventricle is overworked, it becomes weaker, causing a reduction in its ability to pump blood through the lungs. This can ultimately lead to heart failure. There are several possible causes of pulmonary hypertension. It can be caused by congenital heart problems such as a hole in the heart. Other cardiac conditions that may cause pulmonary hypertension include mitral valve disease, aortic valve disease, and left heart failure. Certain pulmonary conditions may cause pulmonary hypertension as well, such as pulmonary veno-occlusive disease, COPD, or pulmonary capillary hemangiomatosis. Certain liver diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and chronic liver disease may cause pulmonary hypertension as well. Further, rheumatic conditions such as lupus or scleroderma have been found to cause pulmonary hypertension. Symptoms of pulmonary hypertension include shortness of breath during activity, dizziness, irregular heartbeat, passing out, or difficulty breathing at rest.
There is no cure for pulmonary hypertension; treatment is used to slow progression of the disease and improve symptoms. One type of drug used to treat pulmonary hypertension is a vasodilator. This type of drug relaxes and opens narrowed blood vessels. A commonly prescribed vasodilator for pulmonary hypertension is epoprostenol. This drug is administered intravenously through an infusion pump. It will first be administered in a hospital setting by a healthcare professional. One the intravenous infusion begins, it must continue uninterrupted 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A person receiving epoprostenol must carry or wear the infusion pump and keep it on at all times. Special handling of the pump is required; for example, the person using it needs to keep it dry at all times. Side effects of epoprostenol include headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, chest pain, back pain, sweating, anxiety and nervousness, and fast heartbeat.
If pulmonary hypertension is caused by other conditions, your treatment will also focus on the underlying condition which is causing pulmonary hypertension. Your doctor may prescribe other therapies such as oxygen therapy, balloon atrial septostomy, and balloon pulmonary angioplasty. Surgical intervention may be required as well. Blood clots in the lung may be surgically removed through a procedure referred to as a pulmonary thromboendarterectomy. In advanced pulmonary hypertension that does not respond to therapy, lung transplantation may be required.
If you are suffering from pulmonary hypertension and require IV epoprostenol therapy to treat your condition, you may be struggling to perform your normal work activities. Social Security Disability benefits are available for those who have worked and paid taxes on their income, and are unable to work due to a medical impairment that lasts or is expected to last for at least one year or result in death. Pulmonary hypertension is most certainly a severe medical impairment and its symptoms and treatment most certainly can severely interfere with your ability to work on a full time basis and perform your activities of daily living.
When Social Security reviews your claim, it will first confirm that you are no longer engaging in substantial gainful activity since the date of your disability. If you are not working anymore due to effects from pulmonary hypertension or its treatment, you will satisfy this criteria. Then, Social Security will confirm that you suffer from a severe impairment, for which pulmonary hypertension qualifies. Social Security will determine this by reviewing your medical records, including progress notes from your doctors, infusion treatment notes, hospitalization, and any imaging tests you may have undergone to confirm your diagnosis. Therefore, it is very important to ensure you have a complete list of your medical providers which you can supply when completing your application. Social Security will review your records and determine what type of activities you are physically capable of doing; for example, how long you are able to stand or sit for in an 8 hour work day. Then, Social Security will evaluate whether you can perform your past jobs in light of your functional capacity. If you are unable to perform your past work, Social Security will determine whether there is any other work that you are able to perform. If you are unable to perform any jobs, Social Security will find you to be disabled.
Pulmonary hypertension has many effects on your ability to function that Social Security may not initially address when assessing your application, particularly if you are undergoing epoprostenol infusion therapy. For example, if you are spending an extensive period of time undergoing or attending to your infusion treatments, you would likely be off task during a work day for a significant period of time. Further, if you are suffering from side effects due to treatments, your ability to focus and concentrate on a job task may be affected. Side effects may also require you to take additional breaks; for example, if you are experiencing symptoms of nausea and vomiting, you may need ready access to a bathroom throughout a work day. If you are required to take great care to avoid water or any materials around the port site, you would be precluded from performing jobs which require exposure to wetness or humidity. And of course, shortness of breath caused by pulmonary hypertension would limit how long you are able to stand or walk at one time or over the course of an 8 hour work day.
Applying for Social Security Disability benefits is a challenging process and hiring an attorney will place you in the best position for success with your claim. The Social Security Disability team at LaBovick Law Group is experienced in handling pulmonary hypertension cases and understands the limits you face in your condition. Give us a call at (561) 625-8400 for a free case evaluation.