Autoimmune disorders are conditions in which your body’s own immune system attacks and destroys healthy cells and tissue in your body by mistake.Your immune system is a complex network of proteins and cells which defends your body against infectious agents such as viruses, germs, bacteria and other foreign bodies. Believe it or not, your immune system almost keeps “a record” of infectious agents in germs it has defeated so that it could recognize and destroy these types of microbes if they ever enter your body again.
Normally and in most circumstances, your immune system can tell the difference between foreign cells and your body’s own healthy cells. Unfortunately, with autoimmune diseases, your immune system mistakes parts of your body, such as cells, blood vessels, skin, joints etc. as foreign and is “attacked” by its own immune system.
There are over 80 auto-immune disorders and symptoms that range from organ-specific to systemic, some of which are:
Rheumatoid arthritis – is probably the most common type of autoimmune disorder. With rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system attacks the body’s own joints, causing a myriad of symptoms over four (4) stages, such as stiffness, pain, swelling, fatigue, fever, redness, warmth in the joints and loss of appetite. Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis could start as early as a person’s 30s, usually starts in the hands but can affect any joint including elbows, feet, hips, neck, shoulders, wrists and your jaw.
Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis – is a thyroid disease in which the immune system attacks your own thyroid gland. It is a chronic inflammatory auto-immune disorder where the body makes antibodies that attack and damaged the thyroid. As a result, the gland becomes inflamed, causing hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is when the thyroid gland isn’t making enough thyroid hormones for your body. Thyroid hormones regulate metabolism. If you suffer from hypothyroidism, your body uses up energy much more slowly, and the metabolism in your cells slow down.
Grave’s Disease – is an autoimmune disease which leads to the generalized overactivity of your thyroid gland – causing hyperthyroidism. Excessive production of thyroid hormones can cause your metabolism to kick into overdrive and often produces an enlarged thyroid. Symptoms of Graves’ disease can include increased sweating, loss of weight, tremors, anxiety, changes in menstrual cycle, erectile dysfunction, irritability, rapid heartbeat and heart failure.
Sjögren’s syndrome – is a systemic autoimmune disease which affects many parts of the body. In particular, Sjögren’s is a chronic disorder which causes the insufficient production of moisture particularly in the eyes and mouth. The disease happens because your immune system attacks and damages your moisture producing glands, including salivary glands and lacrimal (tear) glands. Sjögren’s is normally diagnosed as a primary or secondary autoimmune disorder. If it has been diagnosed as a primary autoimmune disorder, there is no other autoimmune disease present with it. Secondary Sjögren’s is when the disorder is diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder. Normally primary Sjögren’s tends to be much more aggressive.
IgA Deficiency – is a primary immunodeficiency disease which causes individual to not make or have very low levels of a blood protein (antibodies) called immunoglobin A (IgA) which protects against infections of the mucous membrane linings in your mouth, airways and digestive tract. A very common problem for people with IgA deficiency is the susceptibility to infections and recurrent infections in areas such as the ears, sinuses or urinary and intestinal tracts. Additionally, it may take people with IgA Deficiency longer to heal from infections or need additional rounds of antibiotics to fend off infections. Also, many people with IgA Deficiency also suffer from severe allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) systemic lupus erythematosus, chronic active hepatitis and diarrhea. There is also a connection between IgA deficiency and celiac disease. People with celiac disease 10 to 20 times likely to develop an autoimmune response to gluten than the general population.
Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome – (CRPS) is a disorder in which pain feels proportionately far more painful than it really should be. CRPS is divided into two categories, type I and type II. In type I CRPS (formally called RSD) there would be no lesions or nerve damage identified. It comprises over 80% of all CRPS cases. CRPS Type II, on the other hand, is diagnosed when there is evidence of nerve damage, normally caused by trauma. Symptoms of CRPS includes increased pain, sensitivity to touch, sensitivity to cold, swelling in the area, changes in skin temperature, changes in skin color, continuous burning or throbbing pain, your skin might appear shiny and you may suffer from abnormal movement in the affected limb. In most cases, CRPS is triggered by trauma or injury. CRPS also can affect your immune system. High levels of inflammatory chemicals (cytokines) have been discovered in people who suffer from CRPS. These chemicals can contribute to the temperature changes, swelling and redness which is often complained about my people CRPS. The disorder is often found in individuals with other inflammatory or autoimmune conditions such as asthma.
Ulcerative Colitis – is a type of inflammatory bowel disease which causes irritation, inflammation and ulcers on the lining of your colon (otherwise called large intestine). Essentially your immune system is mistakenly attacking your own body. White blood cells are continuously attacking your intestinal lining, causing ongoing inflammation and symptoms such as bloody diarrhea, mild fever, abdominal pain,cramps, fatigue, loss of appetite and weight loss.
Lupus – is the short name for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus. Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disorder in which your body mistakenly attacks connective tissues. Inflammation results in pain, swelling and tissue damage which can affect joints and organs. People with lupus could experience the wide-spectrum of clinical symptoms such as skin rashes, pain, swelling, fever, weight loss, fatigue, arthritis, which could “flare-up”. Treatment of lupus can often include anti-inflammatory painkillers to ease pain in the joints, corticosteroids, immunosuppressants and/or other medication are sometimes also needed.
Multiple Sclerosis – is considered by some as an autoimmune disease in which your body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. With MS, your immune system destroys the fatty substance that coats and protects nerve fibres in the brain and spinal cord called “myelin”. The fatty substance that coats and protects the nerve fibers is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses through nerve fibers. If myelin is damaged, nerve impulses travel with interruption or maybe completely disrupted. When this happens, your brain cannot send signals through your body correctly, causing a person to eventually have trouble walking, feel tired, have muscle weakness, spasms, blurred vision, numbness and tingling, poor bladder control, poor bowel control, pain depression and problems focusing or remembering.
Autoimmune Disorders happen when your body’s own defence system can’t tell the difference between your own organic cells and foreign cells – and your immune system ends up mistakenly attacking its own normal cells and body tissue.
Autoimmune disorders have a wide variety of clinical effects and symptoms on the body – some of which can be mild, relapsing, painful, cause flulike symptoms like aches, fatigue, fever and chills. Other autoimmune diseases carry symptoms of insomnia, irritability, weight loss, heat sensitivity, sweating, bulging eyes, shaking hands, swelling, weakness, paralysis, tremors, poor bowel control – all of which can no doubt a person’s ability to maintain regular gainful employment.
Although autoimmune disorders don’t always signal the end of a person’s productive working days, for many this is the case. For example people with Sjögren’s secondary to IgA deficiency could suffer a wide variety of clinical symptoms, such as recurrent pneumonia, recurrent infections, pain, fatigue, facial sores, tooth decay, mouth sores and other conditions which can no doubt cause the cumulative work interruption or prevent a person from working. If you can work, flares or sudden and severe onsets of autoimmune disease symptoms can present a unique vocational challenge for people
Remember, in order to be approved for and collect long-term disability benefits you must suffer from a total disability. Policy definitions of “total disability” vary from policy to policy, but typically fall into two broad categories – being your “own occupation” coverage, which would ensure you can see inability to pursue the substantial duties of your own employment and “any occupation” in which benefits are payable so long as you are prevented from engaging in any work for which you are reasonably suited or fitted by education training and experience.
Your “own occupation” disability coverage typically lasts for 24 months. At that point, there would be a change of definition in your policy – meaning the definition of total disability would change from your “own occupation” to that of “any occupation”. The transition from “own occupation” to any occupation is a very important juncture in a disability claim. You, as a claimant, have the onus of proving (with your disability lawyers) that you’re totally disabled and prevented from working. In order to prove your total disability, we must look at such things as your physical and mental conditions, your age, your formal education, job history and any pro fessional or skills development course you have taken, your tolerance of stress, your energy levels, consistencies and endurance.
Typically, our disability lawyers would retain and work with vocational specialist to review your case, study your clinical information, meet you, perform vocational testing and determine if your clinical symptoms demonstrate that you are unable to work.
Your long-term disability policy will provide all of the details about when your monthly payments will end. Policies vary in the length of time that LTD benefits are paid. Some benefits will only pay LTD benefits for 5 or 10 years, while other policies will provide for payments until the age of 65. Some examples of other provisions that establish when Benefit payments stop include:
If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder and you have been cut off or denied your long-term disability benefits, call our disability lawyers at 905-333-8888 or fill in a contact form today. It’s important that you speak to a disability lawyer with the experience and understanding to help you find the most suitable approach to getting your long-term disability benefits paid. Matt Lalande has been representing disability claimants at all stages of disability claim since 2003. There is no fee unless we are successful in getting you the benefits that you deserve – nor is there any fee to ever talk to us. Our Hamilton Disability Law firm represents claimants all over Ontario, and we will never ask you for money upfront.