It often starts with abdominal discomfort. You may have gas, cramping, and diarrhea, but you attribute it to a mild flu or something you ate. The next time it happens, you think it’s food poisoning. Then you realize something’s really wrong.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) afflicts between 25 and 45 million Americans each year, mostly women. Reports indicate that more than 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from IBS, and it often affects people younger than 50.
Crohn’s disease is a type of chronic IBS that typically affects the small intestine near the colon. Some patients have symptoms throughout their entire digestive systems, including their mouths, throats, and stomachs. This often distinguishes Crohn’s disease from other forms of IBS, such as colitis.
Crohn’s disease can become extremely debilitating. Flare-ups can occur suddenly, forcing you to abandon work and putting your job at risk. Unfortunately, claiming individual or group long-term disability benefits for conditions that flare up, such as Crohn’s disease, can pose serious challenges. You may feel fine one moment and find yourself bedridden the next.
The experienced long-term disability insurance lawyers and nationally respected ERISA disability attorneys at DarrasLaw have more than 100 years of combined litigation and claim experience fighting for your wrongfully delayed, denied, and terminated individual and group long-term disability benefits. We’ve seen numerous cases of disabling and debilitating Crohn’s disease, which often strikes young workers in the prime of their careers. Call DarrasLaw today at (800) 458-4577 or contact us online if your disability insurer has wrongfully delayed, denied, terminated, or reduced your individual or group long-term disability benefits for Crohn’s disease.
Causes of Crohn’s Disease
IBS involves inflammation of your intestines, and issues like stress, hormones, and food intolerance often can be the trigger. Young females with a family history of IBS most often suffer from the disorder. Common causes of IBS include:
- Nervous system abnormalities: Your nervous system is responsible for sending signals from the brain to the rest of your body, including those involuntary, automatic signals that control bowel functions. A malfunction of the signals between your brain and the intestines can cause an overreaction to stimuli resulting in pain, diarrhea, constipation, and discomfort.
- Infection: Both bacterial overgrowth in the intestines and various germs can trigger IBS. Some patients suffering from gastroenteritis or a virus can develop IBS.
- Muscle abnormalities: The muscles in your intestine contract to move food through the digestive system. Muscle overstimulation, causing longer, stronger muscle contractions, cause diarrhea, gas, and bloating. Weak muscle movements leave food in your body longer, causing buildup and constipation.
- Autoimmune disorders: Certain autoimmune disorders cause the immune system to attack the lining of your intestines, causing inflammation and resulting in IBS.
- Insufficient micro flora: This good bacterium resides in your gut and helps break down food and prevent disease. Patients with inadequate good bacteria may suffer from IBS. Too many antibiotics can kill these good bacteria, so you may develop temporary IBS after a round of antibiotics.
Crohn’s disease is a unique form of chronic IBS caused by your immune system. Healthcare professionals do not always classify IBS as an autoimmune disorder, however, because your immune system isn’t necessarily attacking your own cells. Instead, your immune system, which is designed to detect and fight infections, may mistake certain good bacteria, food cells, and harmless germs in the gut as enemies and start attacking. This causes inflammation of the intestines. There is no direct cure for Crohn’s disease, because you cannot destroy your immune system.
Risk Factors and Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease
A treating physician will likely diagnose you with IBS before Crohn’s disease. The symptoms typically associated with Crohn’s include:
- Rectal bleeding
- Mouth sores
- Anal pain and discharge
- Skin and eye inflammation
- Delayed hormonal development
- Liver inflammation
- Inflammation of bile ducts
- Bowel urgency
- Persistent diarrhea
- Cramps and pain
- Constant discomfort and feeling as if you have to “go”
- Night sweats
- Weight loss
- Hormonal changes, such as loss of normal menstruation
Stress and hereditary factors are also often related to the development of Crohn’s disease. It’s a more common illness in developed, urban areas in the northeastern United States. Treating physicians often diagnose Crohn’s when they observe certain symptoms concurrently with the following risk factors:
- Ethnicity: African Americans with western European ancestry, white Americans, and eastern Europeans of Jewish descent have the highest risk of developing Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease, however, can affect anyone, and treating physicians should not rule it out based on ethnicity.
- Age: Most people develop Crohn’s disease before age 30, but the condition can flare up throughout your work life.
- Smoking: On top of the numerous conditions caused by smoking, inflammation of the bowels and Crohn’s disease more often occurs in smokers.
- Genetics: Almost 20 percent of all people with Crohn’s disease have family members with Crohn’s.
- Lifestyle: The stress associated with your occupation and lifestyle can lead to Crohn’s disease. Eating higher fat and refined foods is often linked to the development of Crohn’s. Patients living a fast-paced, high-stress lifestyle often turn to high-fat fast food. These stressful environments and dietary factors form important considerations in diagnosing Crohn’s disease.
Individual and group long-term disability insurers are looking for compelling medical evidence and objective proof of Crohn’s disease, including blood tests, MRIs, colonoscopies, symptom reporting, and risk factor analysis.
Crohn’s Disease Flare-Ups
Crohn’s disease is not constant. You may feel fine for days, weeks, months, or years, then a stressful event or change in medication reactivates the disease. There is often no consistency to these flare-ups, and your Crohn’s disease may subside right before you decide to apply for individual or group long-term disability benefits.
The unpredictability of this disease makes it difficult to reliably perform the important duties of your occupation, and you may risk losing your job. Some employers may prefer you claim individual or group long-term disability benefits and work to improve and control your condition rather than deal with the inconsistent job performance and absences caused by your illness.
One problem with claiming individual or group long-term disability benefits for this condition is that your individual or group long-term disability insurer is entitled to have its own medical “experts” conduct “independent” evaluations of your condition. If you didn’t present with current symptoms when you saw an insurance company-paid doctor who may have lacked the proper training or specialization to evaluate Crohn’s disease, your individual or group long-term disability insurance company may terminate your benefits.
This is one of many reasons to consult a top-ranked long-term disability attorney or nationally prominent ERISA disability lawyer from DarrasLaw if your individual or group long-term disability insurance company wrongfully delayed, denied, or terminated your Crohn’s disease benefits.
Disabling Complications from Crohn’s Disease
Individual and group long-term disability insurance companies do not consider everyone who has Crohn’s disease disabled. Your Crohn’s disease must prevent you from performing the important duties of your occupation before you qualify for individual or group long-term disability benefits. For example, Crohn’s disease may not prevent an accountant from working from home. A young teacher who takes a sick day once a month or a 15-minute break during the day might still be able to perform the important duties of his or her occupation.
Chronic Crohn’s disease can lead to a multitude of complications, some of which are life-threatening and disabling. Your intestines allow your body to absorb nutrients, and when Crohn’s disease disturbs this process, it leads to serious illnesses. In combination with your Crohn’s disease, the following conditions can render you completely disabled:
- Fissures: These painful tears in your anus can cause bleeding. Fissures are often a side effect of Crohn’s and may require medical intervention.
- Abscesses: These pockets of bacteria can form anywhere in the body. With Crohn’s disease, they often form in the walls of your intestines. These infections can grow serious if not treated and may result in bulging or a boil on your anus. Untreated bacterial infections can cause sepsis.
- Fistula: Ulcers cause these painful and dangerous openings in your intestine. They can affect nearby tissues and cause major infections and pain throughout your body.
- Strictures: Many patients with Crohn’s disease experience a thickening of the intestine known as stricture, which may cause a partial blockage of the intestine and pain if not treated.
- Arthritis: Arthritis is the most common complication of IBS diseases, including Crohn’s disease. One in four patients with Crohn’s disease will also develop arthritis. Arthritis is rarely age-related if you’re younger than 30, and Crohn’s disease can cause early onset arthritis. Scientists believe that the immune system malfunction in your intestines can cause rheumatoid arthritis, where your immune system attacks your joints.
- Canker sores/mouth ulcers: The digestive system begins with your mouth. Crohn’s disease can attack the whole of this system, causing painful mouth sores, which can lead to loss of appetite, weight loss, and malnutrition.
- Eye inflammation: Side effect of Crohn’s may include blurry vision, light sensitivity, irritation, pain, and redness. Eye problems are often related to issues with immune function. Difficulty seeing that you cannot correct with lenses may result in a long-term visual impairment linked to Crohn’s disease.
- Liver dysfunction: Fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, hepatitis, and gallstones are all associated with Crohn’s disease.
- Kidney stones and swelling: Your intestines are close to your kidneys, so if your intestines swell from Crohn’s, they may pinch certain kidney tubes, causing urine backup and kidney swelling. Kidney stones are also commonly associated with Crohn’s disease.
Colon cancer and bowel obstructions are the most dangerous complications linked to Crohn’s disease. Both are potentially fatal. The constant inflammation associated with chronic flare-ups can cause damage to the cells in your intestine. These damaged cells can multiply and form tumors. You will likely need individual or group long-term disability benefits to effectively treat colon cancer.
Bowel obstructions are a different matter. They can become fatal in a matter of days. They can occur when inflammation closes your bowels so food can’t pass through. You’ll need immediate surgery for a bowel obstruction.
Treating Crohn’s Disease
Treating IBS and related disorders has its risks. Immunosuppressants may stop an attack, but they will also suppress your immune system, leaving you vulnerable to opportunistic infections and diseases. Constant medications meant to control Crohn’s disease can also cause toxins to build up in your liver. Quitting smoking, changing your eating habits, exercising, stretching, and reducing stress can reduce the risk and severity of Crohn’s flare-ups.
Medical treatment is necessary when your Crohn’s disease starts resulting in malnutrition, dehydration, severe pain, and dangerous weight loss. These treatments include:
- Medication: You’ll likely need a combination of anti-diarrhea medication, steroids, anti-inflammatories, and immunosuppressants to treat Crohn’s disease. Sometimes medications are used only to treat flare-ups, while other times you’ll need constant medication. Long-term use of Crohn’s medications can result in bone loss, skin irritation, muscle loss, and liver damage.
- Surgery: Experts report that almost 75 percent of patients with Crohn’s disease need surgery at some point. Because Crohn’s attacks the bowels in patches, as opposed to as a whole, surgeons can often remove the diseased part of the bowels. Surgery may not prevent future flare-ups, but it can provide years of relief.
- Antibiotics and probiotics: Antibiotics are needed if excess bacteria build up in your intestine or you develop a tear or abscess. They are used to kill bad bacteria, but they also kill good bacteria. Probiotics help replace the good bacteria in your intestines to promote healthy digestion and replace the positive organisms destroyed by antibiotics and your immune system.
You may have successfully treated your Crohn’s disease for years with diet, exercise, and stress-reducing therapy, but most patients need surgery and medical intervention at some point. You may qualify for individual or group long-term disability benefits if your Crohn’s disease and treatments prevent you from reliably performing the important duties of your occupation.
Call the Award-Winning Long-Term Disability Attorneys and Top-Rated ERISA Disability Lawyers at DarrasLaw Today
Don’t let Crohn’s disease control your life. Fight for your health while DarrasLaw fights for the individual or group long-term disability benefits you deserve. Our initial disability policy analysis and claim consultation are completely free.
From $10 to $100,000,000, no case is too small or large for us at DarrasLaw. Frank N. Darras and his firms have recovered almost $1 billion in wrongfully delayed, denied, and terminated insurance benefits. Claimants facing bad-faith delays, denials, or terminations of individual or group long-term disability benefits should contact DarrasLaw online or call us at (800) 458-4577 today to set up a free consultation.