Do You Have A Case?

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. It is transmitted to humans via a bite from an infected tick. Generally, the disease can cause rash, fever, headaches, and fatigue. While Lyme disease can be treated early with antibiotics, some people may not catch it in time. When one goes without treatment, the infection can spread to your joints, your nervous system, and even the heart. For those individuals, Lyme disease can have a long-term effect on your health, which could lead to disability.

Can Lyme Disease Be Disabling?

Lyme disease can result in short-term and long-term disability. This may depend on the severity of your body’s reaction to it, and how quickly you are treated for it. This illness can cause an array of physical and cognitive symptoms that could contribute to your disability. To qualify for disability, you will have to show how the symptoms of your condition contribute to your inability to perform at work.

Physical Symptoms of Lyme Disease

Signs of Lyme Disease can begin up to 3 days after the tick bite, whether or not the parasite is removed. Generally, the first symptom is a rash known as Erythema Migrans (EM). It occurs in roughly 75% of those infected. The rash may appear after 3 but as many as 30 days after the bite (the average is 7 days) The rash can expand gradually over the body. A fully expanded EM rash can be more than 12 inches wide. It may appear as a round or elliptical shape, sometimes with a “bullseye” around the bite point. While often warm to the touch, the ash is rarely itchy.

Anywhere from a few days to months after the bite, the symptoms can become drastically more debilitating. They may include:

  • Neck and muscle stiffness
  • Fever
  • More EM rashes throughout the body
  • Facial Palsy (drooping or muscle tone loss on 1 or both sides of your face)
  • Severe joint pain & swelling, Arthritis
  • Pain in muscles, tendons, and bones
  • Heart palpitations/irregularities (Lyme Carditis)
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Digestive issues

Cognitive Symptoms of Lyme Disease

This condition may also affect your cognitive health.  It is important when discussing symptoms with your doctor(s) that you also mention any cognitive or mental symptoms as well. The following symptoms can also be a result of Lyme disease.

  • Severe headaches or migraines
  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive deficits
  • Executive function deficits
  • Impaired focus
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Confusion

Cognitive symptoms are generally less common than physical symptoms of this condition. When they are present, they can vary from very mild to seriously debilitating.

tick on a leaf - lyme disease concept

Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome

Symptoms of Lyme disease may fade with antibiotics. However, the longer you wait to treat the disease, the less effective it may be. For some people, some symptoms can continue for months or even years after the antibiotic treatment is done. While the causes of PTLDS are not fully known, some experts believe that the bacteria that causes Lyme Disease may trigger an auto-immune response even after it is gone. While Lyme Disease can be taken care of with antibiotics, there is no proven treatment. PTLDS can also be a reason for requiring long-term disability if your symptoms are severe enough.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease

Generally, Lyme Disease diagnoses are done through clinical reporting of symptoms, and/or a known history of exposure to ticks. The “known history” can refer to hiking or camping in an area known to have infected ticks, or knowingly removing a tick. While a removed tick can be tested for Lyme Disease if kept once killed, the symptoms alone are often enough for a diagnosis. As such, evidence of a diagnosis often isn’t apparent enough for some insurance companies. While laboratory tests can confirm a diagnosis, some doctors may deem this unnecessary for a proper diagnosis.

However, misdiagnosis is also not uncommon, especially if you do not develop an Erythema migrans rash. Clinical signs and symptoms of LD can sometimes be similar to other chronic conditions, such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), Crohn’s Disease, Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, or even ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease).

Providing Proof of Diagnosis

While testing may not be necessary in diagnosing your condition, it could be vital to your case. Blood testing for Lyme disease will often involve 2 levels of testing. The first is generally one of two types of testing. Either the EIA (Enzyme Immunoassay) test or an IFA (Indirect Immunofluorescence assay) test. These check for evidence of Lyme disease-related antibodies. The second tier test is the Western Blot test. This is a much more effective test, and much more valuable in your case. The Western Blot test searches for the presence of specific antibodies that fight against Lyme disease, specifically the IgG and IgM antibodies.

Additional Diagnosis Information

Diagnosing Lyme disease can be difficult because of the wide array of symptoms across patients, and the similarities it shares with other chronic conditions. Because of this, it can be hard to convince an insurance company that you are suffering from debilitating conditions as a result. Your disability attorney can help you build your case in a way that highlights these issues to help create a stronger claim.

While a positive diagnosis of your condition does not require these tests, they can be invaluable in providing a positive diagnosis for the insurance company. It should be noted that a  claimant may have negative blood results and still have Lyme disease. This can often be the case for those suffering from the long-term effects of the bacteria, or those living with PTLDS.

Showing Frequency and Severity of Symptoms

People are often denied disability claims for Lyme Disease because they fail to convince the insurance company that their symptoms are severe or frequent enough to prevent them from working. Because they can vary in frequency and severity, it is vital to show an accurate representation of your debilitating symptoms. Some people experience days with severe symptoms, and others no symptoms at all. Because of this, it is important to have proper personal and medical documentation of your symptoms.

Be sure to communicate any symptoms you are experiencing with your doctor, each time you meet. This provides strong documentation of symptoms in your medical records. Doctors may also be able to submit specialized questionnaires or notes detailing your debilitating symptoms and diagnosis.

For some individuals, we recommend keeping a daily diary of your symptoms each day. Having a well-documented personal list may be important to building your case. Along the same vein, reports from your place of work noting your symptoms and limitations while working can corroborate your daily reporting.

Proving your Disabling Symptoms

Proper documentation of symptoms is important, but it may not be enough for your insurance company. Compiling solid evidence for how your symptoms debilitate you in your daily life, and how they affect your job performance can be essential. There are a few ways you can develop a stronger case in this way.

Firstly, your job should provide an accurate statement of all of your job responsibilities and requirements. Next, you should obtain past job performance reviews, which will likely show degradation in job performance since your diagnosis. Lastly, consider obtaining a vocational expert assessment. This is an assessment done by a professional in your field that can review your job description and performance before going over your medical records. This allows them to create a detailed report which will show how your condition limits your ability to work.

Additional Testing

Two additional tests that may be recommended to you by your attorney are the Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) and Neuropsychological Testing. These two tests evaluate your overall ability to perform work tasks. The FCE measures your ability to perform physical tasks. The Neuropsychological evaluation measures your capacity for mental/cognitive strain. Both offer objective medical evidence that can be helpful for your case.

If you experience heart-related symptoms as a result of your Lyme disease, it may be a good idea to take a Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test (CPET). A CPET test is a special stress test that works to measure your ability to move and physically exert yourself while measuring your heart rate.

All three of these assessments have validity testing parameters. These ensure that you are putting in your maximum effort. These parameters prevent people from underperforming, as that would render the test invalid.

Can an Attorney Help Me Get Long-Term Disability?

If you are looking to file a long term disability claim for your condition, you should seek out an experienced attorney. At D’Agostino & Associates, we help people living with disabling conditions such as Lyme Disease file long-term disability claims. We help you through the process step by step to help you build a strong case. Our law team is here for you.

At D’Agostino & Associates, our team of lawyers can help you sort through all the details, understand what you are entitled to, and fight to get what you deserve. D’Agostino & Associates P.C. has offices in New York and New Jersey. Contact us, or call us at 1-888-245-2924 to schedule a free consultation with our attorneys.