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Disability Benefits for Peripheral Neuropathy

What are the symptoms of peripheral nerve damage?

Symptoms are related to the type of nerves affected.

Motor nerve damage is most commonly associated with muscle weakness. Other symptoms include painful cramps, fasciculations (uncontrolled muscle twitching visible under the skin) and muscle shrinking.

Sensory nerve damage causes various symptoms because sensory nerves have a broad range of functions.

  • Damage to large sensory fibers harms the ability to feel vibrations and touch, especially in the hands and feet. You may feel as if you are wearing gloves and stockings even when you are not. This damage may contribute to the loss of reflexes (as can motor nerve damage). Loss of position sense often makes people unable to coordinate complex movements like walking or fastening buttons or maintaining their balance when their eyes are shut.
  • The “small fibers” without myelin sheaths (protective coating, like insulation that normally surrounds a wire) include fiber extensions called axons that transmit pain and temperature sensations. Small-fiber polyneuropathy can interfere with the ability to feel pain or changes in temperature.  It is often difficult for medical caregivers to control, which can seriously affect a patient's emotional well-being and overall quality of life. Neuropathic pain is sometimes worse at night, disrupting sleep. It can be caused by pain receptors firing spontaneously without any known trigger, or by difficulties with signal processing in the spinal cord that may cause you to feel severe pain (allodynia) from a light touch that is normally painless. For example, you might experience pain from the touch of your bedsheets, even when draped lightly over the body.

Autonomic nerve damage affects the axons in small-fiber neuropathies. Common symptoms include excess sweating, heat intolerance, inability to expand and contract the small blood vessels that regulate blood pressure, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Although rare, some people develop problems eating or swallowing if the nerves that control the esophagus are affected.

There are several types of peripheral neuropathies, the most common of which is linked to diabetes. Another serious polyneuropathy is Guillain-Barre syndrome, which occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves in the body.  Common types of focal (located to just one part of the body) mononeuropathy include carpal tunnel syndrome, which affects the hand and the wrist, and meralgia paresthetica, which causes numbness and tingling on one thigh.  Complex regional pain syndrome is a class of lingering neuropathies where small-fibers are mostly damaged.

Reference: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Peripheral-Neuropathy-Fact-Sheet

Essential Medical Documentation for disability benefits Needed:
  • How far can you walk?
  • How long can you stand? Do you need a cane/walker to ambulate?
  • How much can you lift and carry? 
  • Do you have difficulty reaching, bending, squatting, stooping? Describe.
  • What is your average daily pain level?
  • Do you have grabbing or grasping difficulty (dropping things)?
  • What medications do you take for pain tolerance? Side effects of medication?
  • Do you have objective tests confirming the presence of neuropathy, such as an EMG and nerve conduction test?
  • Are you doing physical therapy?

SSA utilizes the term "Impairments" (and resulting "limitations" - why you cannot work) are the essential bits of information that must be clearly and consistently documented throughout your medical history by the treating sources (medical doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists).

SSA additionally utilizes the term "Residual Functional Capacity" (RFC); this is a key concept related to the resulting physical and/or mental impairments from conditions for which the disability claim is based upon and the impact upon ability to work. 

SSA has its own forms that are used for Physical RFC here. These forms can be filled out by the treating source who has the opportunity to examine the patient and understand the limitations which result from his/her condition and thereby document with specificity in the language of SSA disability. 

 SSA "Listing" or "Blue Book" of peripheral neuropathy can be found here (See 11.14)

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