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Disability Benefits for Choreiform Movement Disorders

Social Security Disability Lawyers: OC, Riverside & San Bernardino

Choreiform Movement Disorders

What is Chorea?

The term “chorea” or “choreiform” is derived from the Greek word “choros,” which means “dance,” and it is descriptive of the types of involuntary movements that a patient with chorea experiences. The movements are fluid-like and can affect the face, neck, arms, legs, and the trunk … pretty much any part of the body. They are usually brief, irregular contractions that are not repetitive or rhythmic, but appear to flow from one muscle to the next. Chorea often occurs with athetosis, which adds twisting and writhing movements. [Ref: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Chorea-Information-Page#disorders-r1]

The part of the brain that appears to be affected in chorea is the basal ganglia, and the cause may be familial, genetic, metabolic, mitochondrial, autoimmune, or related to treatment with medications (“tardive dyskinesia”).  Dopamine levels in the brain are often elevated in many patients.

Chorea is one of the neurological disorders that is often referred to as “dyskinesias.” Dyskinesia refers to involuntary movement disorders that include chorea and tics. Symptoms may include Involuntary jerking or writhing movements (chorea) of the extremities, face, neck or trunk; dystonia or muscular rigidity; abnormal movements of the eyes; problems with gait, posture, and balance; and problems with the muscles that control speech and swallowing. Id.

Sydenham's chorea (“St Vitus' dance”) is a disorder characterized by rapid, uncoordinated jerking movements primarily affecting the face, hands and feet. It is caused by an infection with the streptococcus (Group A) bacteria, which causes “strep throat” and “rheumatic fever.” It is self-limited and resolves within week to months. Treatment is usually curative and requires antibiotics (e.g., penicillin) and other medications, depending on the symptoms.

Huntington's Disease (HD) or Huntington's chorea has no cure and has no effective treatment. It is the prototypical neurological disorder associated with chorea. It is a progressive, degenerative, and hereditary disorder that is usually fatal.  As it progresses, HD affects a person's ability to think, walk, or talk. It is diagnosed via genetic testing. 

Other Movement Disorders

Ataxia, is a progressive neurological disorder that affects coordination and balance. A common hereditary ataxia is Friedreich's ataxia.

Dystonia causes sustained contractions of opposing muscle groups that results in twisting movements and abnormal postures. Some localized dystonia's include blepharospasm (involuntary contraction of the eyelids), cervical dystonia (CD) or spasmodic torticollis (muscle spasms of the head and neck), and writer's cramp or musician's cramp (which is a task-specific dystonia, e.g. when playing the violin).

Myoclonus refers to involuntary movements of the limbs that are sudden and brief.

Restless leg syndrome causes unpleasant sensations in the legs, and patients feel like they must move their legs all the time at night. It causes insomnia and can occur at any age.

Tardive Dyskinesia (TD) causes involuntary movements of the mouth, where patients look like they are chewing gum. It can be caused by prolonged treatment with anti-psychotic medications.

Tourette's Syndrome (TS), which usually starts in childhood, is a series of involuntary movements (“tics”) of the face, mouth, eyes, head, neck or shoulder muscles. Muscular and vocal tics can be present, as well as obsessions, compulsions, psychiatric or psychological problems, and hyperactivity.

Disability Benefits for Chorea, Dyskinesias, and Other Movement Disorders

Long-term disability (LTD) benefits under Social Security (SSDI) and group disability plans (ERISA) for involuntary movement disorders are awarded under the neurological disorders listing for neurodegenerative diseases (11.17) and/or under the mental listing for neurocognitive diseases (12.02), depending on a claimant's symptoms.

Claimants who meet a “listing” under the Social Security Administration's (SSA) guidelines or whose medical records demonstrate significant functional and/or cognitive impairment, may qualify for LTD benefits.

The SSA recognizes that Huntington's Disease is a severe disorder and often allows an expedited evaluation and approval process under its "compassionate allowance program" for this condition. See: POMS DI 23022.923.

At Law Med, we understand these disorders and can work with your neurologist to help you get LTD benefits when you are no longer able to work.

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