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What Is...Sjorgen's Syndrome
June 20, 2012
A disease that has recently come to great media attention due to Venus Williams’s recent diagnosis is Sjorgen’s Syndrome. But although Venus Williams may be famous, this disease is not and has everyone wondering, what is Sjorgen’s Syndrome?
Sjorgen’s Syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that results in destruction of the glands that produce tears and saliva. The two most common symptoms are dry eyes and dry mouth. The disorder may also affect other organs of the body including the kidneys, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas and brain. Sjorgen’s Syndrome affects one to four million people in the United States alone, and it can be developed at any age. The disease is often accompanied by other autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Most people, however, are over the age of forty at the time of initial diagnosis. The disease is thought to be triggered by a particular virus or strain of bacteria. Women are nine times more likely to have the disorder than men. There is neither a cure nor any specific treatment for Sjorgen’s Syndrome.
Where does this disease fit with respect to disability benefits from the Social Security Administration? In the sequential evaluation employed to determine if a claimant has a disability, the claimant must not be performing substantial gainful activity, have a severe impairment, and if the condition meets or equals a listing then the claimant will be found disabled at step three of the sequential evaluation. So, the question is: Does Sjorgen’s Syndrome possibly meet or medically equal any of these listings?
Autoimmune disorders fall under Listing 14.00 Immune System Disorders. Sjorgen’s Syndrome is a listed disorder within the Autoimmune disorders. In order to show that a claimant medically meets or equals this listing, the claimant will need to show the following:
A. Involvement of two or more organ/body systems, with:
- One of the organs/body systems involved to at least a moderate level of severity; and
- At least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (severe fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss).
B. Repeated manifestations of Sjorgen’s Syndrome, with at least two of the constitutional symptoms or signs (sever fatigue, fever, malaise, or involuntary weight loss) and one of the following at the marked level:
- Limitation of activities of daily living.
- Limitation in maintaining social functioning.
- Limitation in completing tasks in a timely manner due to deficiencies in concentration, persistence, or pace.
For more information on Sjorgen’s Syndrome, see the following links:
Social Security Administration Webpage: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/14.00-Immune-Adult.htm
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/sjogrens/sjogrens.htm
Support Groups for People Living with Sjorgen’s Syndrome: http://www.sjogrens.org/home/get-connected/support-groups
Thanks to Albany Law School summer intern Kristin Keehan for her research on this little known disease.
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