Hemochromatosis is a disorder that causes your body to absorb too much iron, often referred to as iron overload. There are two causes of hemochromatosis: hereditary and secondary. Primary hemochromatosis is hereditary and causes the body to absorb too much iron through the digestive system. Secondary hemochromatosis is acquired and is caused by other blood-related disorders or many blood transfusions.
Symptoms and Damage Caused by Hemochromatosis
Many individuals can have hemochromatosis and live symptom free. However, others do have symptoms that can include:
- joint pain
- fatigue; lack of energy
- abdominal pain
- loss of hair, and
- weight loss.
As the disorder progresses, hemochromatosis can begin to affect your organs. The damage to your organs can lead to other impairments, including:
- cirrhosis due to damage to the liver
- diabetes due to damage to the pancreas
- heart problems, including heart failure and arrhythmia
- reproductive problems, including loss of sex drive and impotence
- darkening or graying of the skin (called bronzing), and
Hemochromatosis can be difficult to diagnosis due to its generic symptoms in its early stages. When it is able to be diagnosed, there is often already damage to the organs. Some damage can be severe and even life threatening.
If the symptoms or damage from hemochromatosis have left you unable to work, you may be eligible for Social Security benefits, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and/or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
Qualifying for Social Security Disability Benefits
In order to qualify for Social Security disability benefits (SSDI or SSI), you must show that you are disabled and unable to work at any job. You can show this by meeting the requirements of a "listing," a description of an impairment that is in the Social Security “blue book,” or by showing that there is no job you can do with yourphysical and/or mental limitations. Your impairments and limitations will be considered along with your age, level of education, and work experience in deciding whether you can adjust to work that is less demanding than your last job.
Meeting a Listing
Those with hemochromatosis often suffer from serious impairments due to the late diagnosis of their illness, because the extra iron builds up in the heart, liver, and pancreas over time and causes damage. Below are the listings that may be meet by those with hemochromatosis.
Damage to the Heart
Damage to the Liver
- Listing 5.05: Chronic Liver Disease (includes cirrhosis of the liver)
Damage to the Pancreas
Additionally, cancer can be caused by hemochromatosis, and the one of the cancer listings may be met.
The medical evidence that is required for each listing varies by listing (you can click the above links to go to our articles on each listing). In each case, it is important to include medical evidence that clearly demonstrates each element of the listing.
Inability to Work
For those with hemochromatosis, their physical abilities face the greatest challenge. Joint pain, fatigue, muscle weakness, pain, and circulatory problems can all lead to an inability to perform exertional physical activities. Physical work that can be done when sitting, such as typing and filing, may also be impaired if an individual develops joint pain or significant weakness in the hands.
A person's mental abilities may also be impaired if fatigue becomes severe enough. Individuals may not be able to complete tasks or maintain concentration at work due to fatigue.
Social Security will look at all of your impairments and limitations together in determining if you are able to work. The agency will create a Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) report for you, which will state what physical and mental tasks you can and can't do. Social Security will use your RFC to determine if there are any jobs available that someone with your limitations could do. For more information, see our article on residual functional capacity and allowances (approvals).