Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Thyroid Disorders
According to the American Thyroid Association, over 12 percent of the United States population will develop a thyroid condition in their lifetime. The thyroid gland, located in the neck, produces hormones that affect almost every organ in the body, and if it is not functioning correctly it can have an enormous impact on your health. If you have a thyroid disorder that is affecting your ability to perform daily tasks and causing you to miss work, you may be able to file a long-term disability (LTD) claim to cover your income.
The attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick understand that filing a long-term disability claim or appealing a denial can be difficult while also trying to manage your health. You can contact us at 800-544-9144 for a free consultation about your case today.
Understanding Thyroid Disorders
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland located in the neck below the Adam’s apple. It produces the hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones regulate your metabolism, which can affect the speed at which your organs operate. When your organs operate too fast or too slow due to an excess of or deficiency in the T3 and T4 hormones, it is known as hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Both can have an enormous impact on the general functioning of your body.
Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid produces excess hormones and accelerates your body’s metabolism. This causes your organs to operate at a faster pace than they normally would, which can cause complications and abnormalities in organ function. Such abnormalities may include rapid or irregular heartbeat, tremors, and unintentional weight loss. Other symptoms may include:
- Increased appetite
- Fatigue or muscle weakness
- Heart palpitations
- Anxiety or irritability
- Sensitivity to heat
- Increased sweating or warm skin
- Increased frequency of bowel movements
- Skin thinning
- Brittle hair
- Swelling at the base of your neck
- Sleep disturbances
- Weight loss even when your appetite or food intake stays the same or increases
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism can lead to dangerous health complications and increase risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, and vision loss. Risk factors for hyperthyroidism include family history of thyroid disorders, personal history of chronic illness such as type 1 diabetes, and being of the female sex.
The leading cause of thyroid problems worldwide is iodine deficiency; however, as iodized salt is consumed in the United States, this is less often the case in the U.S. There is no single cause of hyperthyroidism, but it is often a result of other conditions that affect the thyroid, such as the autoimmune disorder, Graves’ disease, or thyroid nodules.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system creates antibodies, called thyroid-stimulating immunoglobulins, that attach to your thyroid and cause it to produce an excess of hormones. Like many autoimmune disorders, it is not known exactly why this occurs, but it can happen when the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body in response to a foreign virus. Graves’ disease is the most common cause of hyperthyroidism in the United States.
The symptoms of Graves’ disease largely overlap with hyperthyroidism, though may also include:
- Bulging eyes
- Thick, red skin usually on shins or tops of feet
- Changes in menstrual cycles
- Erectile dysfunction
- Reduced libido
About a third of people with Graves’ disease show signs of Graves’ ophthalmopathy, in which autoimmune effects become noticeable around the eyes, causing them to bulge or become painful. Additional symptoms of Graves’ ophthalmopathy include:
- Pressure or pain in the eyes
- Gritty sensation in the eyes
- Puffy eyelids
- Reddened or inflamed eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Double vision
- Loss of vision
Thyroid nodules occur when solid or fluid-filled lumps form in your thyroid. Often, thyroid nodules are harmless and may not cause symptoms. Occasionally they may grow large enough to press on your windpipe or esophagus, causing shortness of breath or trouble swallowing. In some cases, thyroid nodules may produce additional T4 hormone, which can lead to symptoms of hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid nodules may be caused by cysts, iodine deficiency, an overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue, and, in rare cases, cancer. Nodules may also be caused by inflammation of the thyroid, which often is associated with hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism occurs when your thyroid is underactive and does not produce enough T3 and T4 hormones, resulting in a slower metabolism. Often, symptoms of hypothyroidism are slower to appear. Since it is natural for your metabolism to slow as you grow older, symptoms of hypothyroidism are sometimes mistakenly attributed to age, until increasingly obvious signs develop.
Symptoms of hypothyroidism include:
- Weight gain
- Slowed heart rate
- Increased sensitivity to cold
- Muscle weakness, aches, or tenderness
- Joint pain, stiffness, or swelling
- Elevated cholesterol
- Dry or puffy skin
- Swelling in the neck
- Impaired memory
Hypothyroidism can lead to complications such as heart disease, mental health issues, damage to peripheral nerves, and infertility. Risk factors for hypothyroidism include being older than sixty, being female, having a family history of thyroid disease, and having an existing autoimmune disease.
Iodine deficiency, pregnancy, congenital disease, and pituitary disorder can result in hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism can also be the result of thyroid surgery or radiation therapy due to other illnesses or can occur as a side effect of certain medications. In some cases, hypothyroidism can even be an over-response to hyperthyroidism treatment. The most common cause of hypothyroidism is the autoimmune disorder known as Hashimoto’s disease.
Hashimoto’s disease, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, is an autoimmune disorder in which your immune system mistakenly attacks your thyroid. As a result, your thyroid becomes damaged and can no longer produce a sufficient number of thyroid hormones. Hashimoto’s disease often develops slowly, and it may take years to become aware of the symptoms. As the leading cause of hypothyroidism, the symptoms of Hashimoto’s disease overlap with those of hypothyroidism.
A goiter is an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid. Goiters are caused by constant stimulation to the thyroid to encourage the release of hormones. This stimulation causes inflammation and enlargement. While goiters are often a symptom of Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism, they can also be caused by hyperthyroidism.
Symptoms of goiter include:
- Swelling at the base of the neck
- Tightness of the throat
- Difficulty swallowing or breathing
Diagnosis and Treatment for Thyroid Disorders
To diagnose a thyroid disorder, your doctor will evaluate your symptoms, review your personal and family medical history, and perform blood tests. These tests will measure the levels of T3 and T4 hormones in your blood to determine if you have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism. Your doctor may also test your blood for antibodies that may determine if the cause of have hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism is an autoimmune problem, such as Graves’ or Hashimoto’s disease. For a goiter or thyroid nodules, thyroid scanning or imaging may be done.
Treatment depends on the cause of your condition, as well as your age, physical condition, and the severity of your disorder. For hyperthyroidism and related disorders such as Graves’ disease, treatments will surround the thyroid and slow the release of hormones.
Common treatments consist of taking anti-thyroid medications or radioactive iodine. Medications may prevent your thyroid from producing excess hormones, while radioactive iodine shrinks your thyroid by destroying the overactive thyroid glands. Sometimes, surgery to remove part or all of your thyroid may be necessary, though you will likely need lifelong supplemental treatment or medication to supply your body with the necessary levels of hormones.
Treatment for hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease most often consists of the use of the synthetic thyroid hormone, levothyroxine. This hormone is typically taken daily to restore hormone levels. However, determining the right dosage may take time and experimentation, and can result in symptoms of hyperthyroidism if taken at too great a dose. Once the right dosage is determined, however, this treatment is largely effective.
How Thyroid Disorders Can Impact Your Ability to Work
Thyroid disorders can greatly interfere with your ability to work, as well as impact the overall quality of your life. Thyroid disorders can lead to several physical ailments. Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism interfere with your metabolism in negative ways. This may lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, abnormal appetite, bodily sensitivity that can cause pain or discomfort, and mental health disorders such as depression or anxiety that also affect your ability to focus and concentrate.
Such physical ailments can greatly impact your ability to carry out work, no matter what occupation you hold. It can be dangerous to be fatigued or in pain in a job that requires physical tasks, such as heavy lifting, as well as in a job that may require a high level of mental focus, such as medical work or accounting. In such cases, your thyroid disorder may render you unable to perform such occupations.
Even after you are diagnosed with a thyroid disorder and begin receiving treatment, the effects of your treatment may not be immediately apparent, or it may take time for you to adjust and be well enough to work again. Medications and synthetic hormone treatments may also cause side effects. Thyroid surgery may often require a period of recovery and adjustment to supplemental medication.
More severe effects of thyroid disorders can impair your memory, affect your vision, and impact your ability to breathe. Thyroid disorders increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, and brittle bones. All these symptoms and conditions may contribute to your inability to work, and it is important to include them in your long-term disability claim. Long-term disability benefits can replace your income when you find yourself unable to work due to your thyroid disorder, and while it may be a difficult application process, CCK attorneys are able to help.
Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help with Your Long-Term Disability Claim for a Thyroid Disorder
The long-term disability attorneys at Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick have the experience you need to help you with your long-term disability claim. Suffering from a thyroid disorder can be extremely taxing, physically and mentally, and filing a long-term disability claim or appealing a denial may be difficult for you. We understand that acquiring benefits is challenging and can help you gather the best evidence to support your case.
The long-term disability team at CCK will begin by reviewing your policy to determine the type of evidence you need to satisfy the definition of disability in your plan. This definition will specify the terms your thyroid disorder must satisfy in order to qualify as a disability. We can help you gather appropriate documentation from your doctors and from medical experts, as well as vocational experts who may be able to assess your ability to perform your job. You may also want to gather testimony from personal acquaintances who have seen the way your thyroid disorder disables you.
If your long-term disability plan is governed by ERISA, you may have stricter guidelines. Missing a deadline may result in a benefit denial or loss of rights to benefits altogether. If you are appealing a denial, you will not be able to submit new evidence if your appeal reaches court. Our lawyers are experienced in ERISA and LTD law and can assist if you find yourself hindered by such guidelines. We want to help you win the benefits you deserve.
Call CCK Today for a Free Consultation
We understand that the added burden of filing for long-term disability benefits can be stressful on top of a diagnosis of a thyroid condition. That is why the attorneys from Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick are here to help. We can handle the legal process for you as you manage your condition.
If you would like to speak with a member of our team regarding your disability case, you can contact us online or call 800-544-9144 today for a free consultation.
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