Can I Get Disability Benefits for Hyperhidrosis (Excessive Sweating)?

Severe cases of hyperhidrosis that don't respond to treatment can be disabling.

By , J.D., University of Baltimore School of Law
Updated by Diana Chaikin, Attorney (Seattle University School of Law)

Hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes the body to sweat uncontrollably and unpredictably. Hyperhidrosis most commonly affects the hands, feet, groin, and underarms, but can also occur on the face and, rarely, the entire body.

Doctors aren't yet sure what causes hyperhidrosis, but it's suspected to result from an overactive sympathetic nervous system. (Your sympathetic nervous system is a network of nerves that activates the "fight or flight" response.) High emotions, 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 Can Sweating a Lot Affect Your 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, like waiting tables, seeing patients, or doing in-person sales (see our article on your chances of getting disability as a former salesperson). Moisture on your hands and feet can increase your risk of injury in jobs where you'd have to work with heavy equipment or drive a forklift.

Fortunately, many people with hyperhidrosis are able to significantly reduce their symptoms using treatment options such as medication, iontophoresis, botox, and surgery. But the success of these treatments is varied and they may lead to other complications, so for some people, their hyperhidrosis remains uncontrolled. In some circumstances, they might qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

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 isn't a listed impairment, 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 national economy. If the SSA decides there is any work you can still do, your application will be denied.

Hyperhidrosis and Your Residual Functional Capacity

The SSA determines whether you can do any work by first assessing your residual functional capacity (RFC). Your RFC is a set of restrictions describing what you can and can't do in a work environment, on a regular and sustained basis. When assessing your RFC, the SSA reviews your medical records, activities of daily living, and doctor's opinions to see what types of job tasks you should avoid.

The SSA will then compare your RFC with the physical and mental demands of your past work. If you're no longer able to return to your old jobs, then the agency will need to see whether any other jobs exist that you can do, given the limitations in your RFC as well as other factors such as your age, education, and skill level.

Exertional Limitations In Your RFC

Any limitations that are documented in your medical records should be included in your RFC. For example, the SSA will determine how hyperhidrosis affects your ability to perform strength-related work activities like lifting, carrying, pushing, and pulling. In Social Security lingo, this is called your exertional level. The agency doesn't expect you to do any job that exceeds your exertional level.

People with hyperhidrosis will likely find it difficult to qualify for disability benefits based on exertional limitations alone. Because hyperhidrosis doesn't directly affect strength the way heart palpitations or muscle weakness might, the SSA will probably conclude that you have the RFC to do work at a light or sedentary exertional level, despite your condition. You'll need to establish additional, non-exertional limitations in your RFC to have a better chance at getting benefits.

Non-Exertional Limitations In Your RFC

Non-exertional limitations are restrictions that affect your ability to do other work-related activities that aren't related to strength. Examples of non-exertional limitations include:

  • picking up and grasping small objects
  • typing and pressing buttons
  • focusing on tasks and remembering job duties
  • stooping, bending, crawling, and crouching,
  • maintaining workplace attendance, and
  • getting along with co-workers.

Even if the SSA finds that you can physically perform a sedentary (sit-down) job with your RFC, you can still win your claim for benefits if your non-exertional limitations make full-time work impossible. Because hyperhidrosis has unique symptoms that can interfere with your ability to work in ways that might be unexpected to a disability claims examiner or hearing judge, establishing non-exertional limitations can be particularly important.

For more information, see our article on how to use both exertional and non-exertional limitations to win your claim.

Combining Impairments Can Reduce Your RFC

Many people with hyperhidrosis have been diagnosed with other conditions that can contribute to their work-related limitations. Because multiple medical disorders can interact in ways that are more limiting than each one would be separately, the SSA must consider the combined effect of all your impairments in your RFC.

For more information, see our article on how using a combination of impairments can help win your claim.

Using the Grid Rules to Establish Disability With Your RFC

Applicants 50 years of age or older generally have an easier time getting benefits under a special set of rules known as the medical-vocational grid. (Social Security Act, Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2.)The grids are a series of tables that the SSA uses to determine if someone with an RFC at a specific exertional level can be expected to switch to other work.

These grid tables use several factors to direct Social Security to find you disabled or not disabled, including your age, education, and whether you have any transferable skills. In the above example, Gordon was found disabled because the agency didn't think that somebody his age and with his work background would be able to use the skills he learned as a construction worker at a less demanding job.

Similarly, a grid rule might say that if you're 55, have done unskilled work all your life, and can't do your prior job, the SSA has to find you disabled. In other words, if your circumstances fit into a grid rule, the agency will find that you're disabled without even looking to see whether there are other jobs you could do.

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.

How to Apply for Social Security Disability for Hyperhidrosis

Social Security provides three methods for you to start your application for disability benefits.:

  • Fill out the SSA's online disability application at your convenience.
  • Call Social Security to file your application by phone at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778).
  • Contact your local Social Security office to set an appointment to file your disability application in person—a Social Security representative can assist you.

No matter which method you choose, you'll need your Social Security number (and those of your family members) to complete the application. You'll also need to answer several questions about your work history, living situation, current income and assets, and your medical condition.

Getting disability benefits for hyperhidrosis can be challenging. Consider speaking with an experienced disability attorney to discuss your claim and see what techniques may work best in your particular case.

Updated November 13, 2023

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