Unable to Work Due to Hyperhidrosis / Excessive Sweating: Are Disability Benefits Available?
An older person with the most severe and untreatable hyperhidrosis has a chance of qualifying for disability benefits.
Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes the body to sweat uncontrollably and unpredictably. Most commonly the hands, feet, groin, and underarms are affected; however, hyperhidrosis can also occur on the face and, rarely, the entire body.
The cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown but doctors believe that an over-reactive sympathetic nerve response is the primary cause. High emotion, smells, sounds, certain foods and drinks, caffeine, or nicotine can trigger episodes. Hyperhidrosis can also occur with other conditions like Parkinson’s disease, congestive heart failure, and diabetes.
How Does Sweating a Lot Affect One's Ability to Work?
Hyperhidrosis often affects both hands, and can make it difficult to perform tasks using fine motor skills, like typing, or grasping and carrying items. Excessive sweating can also make it hard to hold on to any job that requires working with the public, such waiting tables, seeing patients, doing in-person sales (see our article on your chances of getting disability as a former salesperson) and so on. The excessive moisture can also make working in some work environments dangerous, such as working with heavy equipment or driving forklifts.
Fortunately, many sufferers are able to greatly reduce their symptoms using treatment options such as medication, iontophoresis, botox, and surgery. But the success of these treatments is varied and may lead to other complications, so there are some whose hyperhidrosis remains uncontrolled. These patients may be eligible for Social Security benefits, though in very limited circumstances.
Can I Get Disability for Hyperhidrosis?
To be eligible for disability, hyperhidrosis must prevent you from working any type of full-time job for at least 12 consecutive months. Because hyperhidrosis does not have a disability listing, the SSA will have to determine if the symptoms of your illness prevent you from doing your past work and any other work in the U.S. If the SSA decides there is any work you can still do, you will be denied.
First, the SSA must decide your residual functional capacity (RFC) -- what you can and cannot do on a regular and sustained basis. To determine your RFC, the SSA will use your medical records to assess how your hyperhidrosis affects your ability to perform strength-related work activities like lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling.
If the SSA concludes you have the RFC to do a sedentary (sit-down) job despite your condition, you will have significant difficulty proving that your hyperhidrosis prevents you from doing a sit-down job, since the condition doesn’t affect strength. However, even if the SSA concludes you can do a sit-down job, there are techniques that a disability attorney will use to prove you cannot work.
A non-exertional limitation is one that affects a person’s ability to do other activities needed for work that are not related to strength. Examples of non-exertional limitations include the ability to:
- finger and grasp objects
- focus on tasks
- stoop, bend, and crawl, and
- get along with co-workers.
Even if the SSA concludes a person still has the physical RFC to do a sit-down job, the claimant can still win if he or she proves that the medical condition imposes non-exertional limitations that make full-time work impossible. This technique may be particularly useful for claimants with hyperhidrosis because of the condition’s unique symptoms. Here is an example.
- The disability claimant suffered from severe hyperhidrosis. The claimant had undergone a surgical procedure to attempt to alleviate her symptoms but developed a complication known as “compensatory sweating,” which caused a significant increase in the perspiration levels of both of her hands. Medication had been minimally successful. The claimant’s past work had been as a seamstress. She could no longer do this job because the excessive moisture on her hands prevented her from being able to manipulate the machinery, handle small objects such as pins and buttons, and keep fabrics dry. She had no other medical conditions. The SSA concluded that the claimant could still do a sit-down job. However, at her hearing, the claimant’s attorney used the claimant’s medical evidence to prove that she experienced a significant interference with her ability to grasp objects of any size and to finger and manipulate small objects. The claimant’s attorney then argued that these non-exertional limitations prevented her from being able to do any job on a regular and sustained basis. The claimant was approved for benefits.
For more information, see our article on how to use exertional and non-exertional limitations to win your claim.
Combination of Impairments
Frequently people with hyperhidrosis suffer from other conditions as well. In these cases, the SSA must consider the combined effect of all of the claimant’s impairments. Here is an example.
- The claimant suffered from hyperhidrosis and type-2 diabetes. Both conditions were only moderately managed with medication. The claimant’s past work had been as a construction worker. However, side effects of the medication needed to control his hyperhidrosis caused painful blisters in his hands and he could no longer grasp the controls. His diabetes complicated the healing of the wounds and made him prone to infections. Metformin, the medication used to treat his diabetes, also caused dizziness that interfered with his ability to operate the crane and otherwise work safely in a construction area. The medical evidence in the claimant’s file supported his statements about the effects of these conditions. Based on this evidence, the SSA concluded the claimant could no longer do his old job. However, the claimant still had to prove that these symptoms prevented him from being able to do other jobs.
For more information, see our article on how using a combination of impairments can help win your claim.
Using the Grid Rules
The grids are a series of tables that the SSA must use to determine if someone with a certain RFC can be expected to switch to other work (a type of job different than the prior job that the claimant can't do). These grid tables use several factors to direct a finding of disabled or not disabled, including the claimant’s age, education, skill level of his or her old job, and whether any of his or her skills could be used in a new job. For instance, a grid rule might say that if you are 55 and have done unskilled work all your life, Social Security must find you disabled if you can't do your prior job. In other words, if your circumstances fit into a grid rule, Social Security won't even look at whether there are other jobs you could do.
The grid rules can make it easier for an older person (over the age of 55) to win his or her claim. For more information about how the grid rules might help you win your claim for disability based on hyperhidrosis, see our section on Social Security's grid rules and look at the grid rules for your age.
Contact an Attorney
Winning a claim for disability because of hyperhidrosis will be difficult; however, there may be some appeal hearing techniques to increase your chances of approval. You should speak with an experienced disability attorney to discuss your claim and see what techniques may work best in your particular case.