Sarcoidosis occurs when tiny clumps of abnormal tissue, called granulomas, form in your body. Sarcoidosis can affect almost any organ in the body, and the signs and symptoms of sarcoidosis depend on what part of the body is affected. The lungs are the organs most commonly affected with sarcoidosis, and other common organs that are affected include the skin and eyes. Sarcoidosis can even affect the heart (cardiac sarcoidosis).
Some people with sarcoidosis have few, if any, symptoms, and the condition improves with no lasting complications. Other people have severe symptoms and need to be treated with drugs and even, in rare cases, undergo an organ transplant. These sarcoidosis patients are likely to qualify for disability benefits.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not have a specific disability listing for evaluating whether sarcoidosis has caused disability. If you have been diagnosed with sarcoidosis, you will be evaluated under the disability listing for whatever body organ is affected by the sarcoidosis. Based on the most common organs affected, below are some (but not all) of the disability listings you may be evaluated under. Remember, even if you don’t exactly “meet” an SSA disability listing (that is, you don’t qualify exactly under the specific criteria for an impairment), if your symptoms are equal in severity to those of a listed impairment, you may still be found disabled.
Chronic Pulmonary Insufficiency. In order to meet this disability listing, you will need to take specific lung function tests to show that your lungs aren’t functioning as well as they should be. For more information, see our article on the disability listing for COPD.
Bronchiectasis or Myobacterial and Mycotic Lung Infections. Sarcoidosis can cause bronchiectasis as well as bacterial and fungal infections in the lungs, called mycotic infections. In order to meet these listings, you must show diminished lung function. For more information, see our article on lung infections or tuberculosis.
Several of the listed skin disorders may apply to you if you have sarcoidosis affecting your skin. For example, ichthyosis is a listed impairment and describes many different kinds of skin disorders involving dry, cracked, and scaly skin. While most kinds of ichthyosis are inherited, ichthyosis can be acquired and has been linked to sarcoidosis. In order to meet this listing, you must have extensive skin lesions that have persisted for a certain amount of time despite treating it as prescribed. For more information, see our topic area disability benefits for skin disorders.
If you have sarcoidosis that affects your eyes, you may suffer from vision loss. In order to meet the disability listing for vision loss, you must have a specified level of vision loss, based on visual acuity and visual fields. For more information, see our article on disability for vision loss.
If you have a diagnosis of sarcoidosis but you don’t meet criteria under any of the disability listings discussed above (or under any other listing for your affected body part), the SSA will assess your "residual functional capacity," or "RFC." Your RFC assessment is used by the SSA to determine what kind of work you are still capable of doing despite the limitations from your medical conditions and any treatments you may be prescribed because of your impairments.
Your RFC assessment will be based on what organs are affected by your sarcoidosis. An RFC assessment for sarcoidosis in the lungs might include limitations on working in environments where you are exposed to dust or fumes, or where you must work in extreme temperatures that make it difficult to breathe. You may also have limitations regarding how long you can walk or move at one time without resting.
An RFC assessment for someone who has sarcoidosis affecting the skin might include limitations on the types of environment the affected skin can be exposed to. Depending on what part of your body the skin lesions occur on, you also may not be able to stand, sit or walk for extended periods of time.
An RFC assessment for someone with a vision disorder (such as double vision or low vision) will have limitations on performing work that requires good eyesight. You may also not be legally allowed to drive or operate hazardous machinery, which could further limit what work you are able to do. Of course, if you are legally blind in both eyes while wearing corrective eyeglasses or contacts, you would qualify for benefits automatically under the disability listing for vision.
If the SSA finds that your RFC does not limit you enough, and that you are capable of performing work, the SSA can deny your claim. However, if the SSA determines that the symptoms associated with your impairments and treatment are so limiting that there is no job you can do, you will be awarded benefits under a "medical-vocational allowance." For more information, see our articles on RFC and medical-vocational allowances.