In this In this article:
- What is Hashimoto's?
- Symptoms of Hashimoto's
- Can I get disability benefits with Hashimoto's?
- Steps for overcoming hardship
Hashimoto's thyroiditis is the most common cause of underactive thyroid in the United States. When left untreated, this thyroid condition can cause several complications that can interfere with your daily life. Even with treatment, Hashimoto's can make it difficult for some people to support themselves and their families because they cannot perform their job duties adequately.
What is Hashimoto's disease?
Hashimoto's is an autoimmune condition where your immune system attacks cells in the thyroid gland. This immune disorder leads to chronic inflammation of the thyroid gland (called 'thyroiditis'). Hashimoto's can be slow to progress but can eventually cause your thyroid function to decline over time. Eventually, Hashimoto's can lead to hypothyroidism.
Hashimoto's can be hard to diagnose in the early phases of the disease. Therefore, most people do not learn they have Hashimoto's until significant damage has occurred to the thyroid. This autoimmune condition frequently runs in families. Sometimes people who have a family history of Hashimoto's are more likely to diagnose and treat the disease earlier.
A diagnosis of Hashimoto's is usually made by:
- A physical exam that may show a goiter (an enlarged thyroid gland)
- A review of symptoms that are similar to hypothyroidism
- Laboratory testing indicates an increase in TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), and possibly low T4. TPO antibodies may be higher in people with Hashimoto's, suggesting an autoimmune attack on the thyroid gland.
Symptoms of Hashimoto's thyroiditis
People with Hashimoto's usually have the same symptoms as people with hypothyroidism. There are no symptoms that are unique to Hashimoto's. That said, autoimmune conditions may cause further aggravation and discomfort compared to conditions that are not caused by autoimmune processes. Typically, your immune system protects your organs and keeps you healthy. With autoimmune conditions, however, your immune cells attack healthy tissues in your body.
Hashimoto's symptoms may include:
- Depression or sadness
- Nerve pain
- Thinning hair
- High blood pressure and increased risk for heart attack
- Slowed metabolism
- Constipation and bloating
- Changes to the menstrual cycle
- Muscle weakness and joint pain
Given this combination of symptoms, it is no wonder that people with untreated or uncontrollable Hashimoto's can struggle to perform daily activities, including providing an income.
Am I eligible for disability benefits with Hashimoto's?
Some people can be severely impacted by Hashimoto's disease if it is uncontrolled or if secondary health conditions arise. Suppose you are unable to work to support yourself and your family because of Hashimoto's. In that case, you may apply for disability benefits. For example, people with heart issues related to thyroid disorders may be eligible for disability benefits.
Hashimoto's can also limit your physical stamina. People who work physically demanding jobs may not be able to perform their job duties. For example, doing repeated actions such as lifting or standing for long periods may be difficult due to leg swelling, joint pain, and muscle cramping.
Getting disability approved for Hashimoto's alone can be challenging. Approval is more likely if your Hashimoto's has led to other health conditions, such as neurological or cardiovascular complications.
Steps for overcoming hardship
Most people with Hashimoto's can function normally in their day-to-day lives, especially with proper thyroid treatment if indicated. Hashimoto's is most commonly treated with thyroid hormone replacement medication if thyroid hormones are low. If lab results do not indicate a thyroid hormone deficiency, most doctors will monitor lab studies in a wait-and-see approach without prescribing treatment.
Along with taking medication, people with Hashimoto's can also take steps to treat individual symptoms. For example, people who suffer from joint pain and muscle aches can use hot and cold therapy, massage therapy, physical therapy, and hydrotherapy to alleviate discomfort.
If you find you struggle to perform at work, talk with your manager to see if you can re-negotiate your job duties. Many managers understand and are more likely to work with you than re-hire and re-train a new employee. Furthermore, a job can boost your self-esteem, connect you with other people, and help you continue developing yourself.
If you choose to pursue the process of getting disability for your thyroid condition, there are some steps you will need to take to start this process.
Firstly, identify where you will apply for disability. Most people go through the Social Security Administration for government-funded disability. Some people carry short-term and long-term disability policies that they hold privately or through their place of employment.
Secondly, once you begin an application for disability benefits, you will need to provide a significant amount of information, including:
- Information about you (name, birthdate, social security number, etc.)
- Information about your medical condition, including:
- Diagnosis (or diagnoses), injuries, surgeries, illnesses, etc.
- Lab tests and imaging studies
- Patient ID numbers, treatment dates, and treating doctors, including their phone numbers (You will likely need help from a managing physician to complete your paperwork.)
- Information about your work, income, and military status
- Previous disability benefits
Thirdly, you will need to gather specific documents to mail and bring in-person to an SSA office near you. These documents can include your birth certificate, medical history, military papers, current compensation (pay stubs, award letters, etc.), and last year's W2.
You can apply for SSA benefits online, in-person, or over the phone. Privately-held disability policies are available over the phone or online.
If your application is not approved, you can start an appeal process. Most benefit agencies recommend you begin this process right away after receiving your letter of denial.
A note from Paloma Health
Our goal is to help people with thyroid disorders to maximize their quality of life. If you feel that your Hashimoto's is disabling and you are concerned about providing an income, find a thyroid doctor. Together with your doctor, you can explore treatment options so that you can go back to being you.