Can I qualify for disability benefits if I am suffering from the effects of Migraine Headaches?
Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. A migraine is not just an ordinary headache, but a complex condition with a variety of symptoms that lasts for hours and sometimes days.
The average migraine sufferer misses two days of work per year and the World Health Organization ranks migraines as the 19th most common reason for disability.
Though people of any age can experience migraines, they occur most often in individuals between the ages of 35 and 55 and more often in women than men.
The most common symptoms of migraines include:
- Pain behind one eye or ear
- Pain in temples
- Seeing spots or flashing lights
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light or sound or smells
- Temporary vision loss
During an attack, which can last between 4 and 72 hours, the individual needs to lie down for several hours, sometimes in a dark room until symptoms subside.
The two most common types of migraines are migraines with aura and migraines without aura.
An aura is a neurological symptom of migraine, such as visual disturbances. A migraine without aura, also known as common migraine, is a headache that occurs on one side of the head with throbbing pain that worsens during everyday exercise, like walking. 70-90% of migraine sufferers experience this type of migraine. The person may be sensitive to light and/or sound and is likely to feel nauseous and vomit. Common migraines can occur once a year or several times a week.
Contact a Social Security disability attorney at 512-454-4000 for a free consultation and see if you can get disability benefits while suffering from Migraines. If you have been denied disability don’t give up!
A migraine with aura, or classic migraine, exhibits the same symptoms of a migraine without aura, but the individual may also experience the following visual disturbances:
- Blind spots
- Flashing lights
- Tunnel vision
- Zig zag lines
- Sparkles or stars
- Colored spots
Other aura symptoms include feeling pins and needles in the arms and legs, weakness on one side of the body, dizziness, and a feeling of spinning.
Migraines with aura may occur once a year or several times a year. 10% to 30% of migraine sufferers experience this type of migraine.
An individual may experience some warning symptoms a day or two before the actual migraine attack (called the prodrome phase), such as depression and mood changes, frequent yawning, neck stiffness, unusual food cravings and increased thirst.
Twenty-four hours after a migraine attack, a person may experience a sensitivity to light and sound, confusion, dizziness, moodiness, weakness or a feeling of being drained. This is known as the postdrome phase.
Researchers link migraines to a number of genetic and environmental factors, particularly imbalances in brain chemicals, like serotonin. Serotonin helps regulate pain in the nervous system.
When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels in the brain shrink; when serotonin levels are low, blood vessels swell causing pain.
Other triggers related to migraines include:
- Emotional stress
- Alcohol, especially wine
- Hormonal changes
- Food additives
- Some medications, such as contraceptives and nitroglycerin
- Change in weather or barometric pressure
- Physical exertion
There is no cure for migraines currently, so treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.
Doctors may prescribe pain relief medications taken during a migraine attack to stop symptoms and/or preventive medications to be taken regularly to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Alternative treatments include supplements like coenzyme Q10 and devices like Cefaly, a portable headband-like device that generates electrical impulses on the skin.
As debilitating as migraines are, the condition is not recognized as an impairment by the Social Security Administration in its Blue Book.
Though it is very difficult to qualify for Social Security disability benefits if you suffer with migraines, it is still not impossible. You must demonstrate that your symptoms equal the severity of another listed impairment. For example, some medical research includes migraines as part of the seizure spectrum, so migraines may equal the severity of epilepsy.
Still, your symptoms must meet certain requirements:
- The migraines must occur at least twice a week despite treatment
- The migraines must last several hours and impair your mental functioning
- You must be unable to perform basic work on a consistent basis
- You must be unable to maintain focus and concentration
- You must take unscheduled breaks throughout the day because of symptoms or side effects of medication
- You must be unable to sustain ordinary physical activity like standing, walking, or lifting.
Social Security will want to see medical records that detail the frequency and severity of your migraines, medications and treatments that have been tried, and records of emergency room visits and hospitalization.
There are no definitive tests to confirm a diagnosis of migraine headaches, but you should provide results of MRIs or CATs ordered by your doctor to rule out other conditions. The Social Security Administration will also consider how often you experience migraine headaches, how often you miss work, and any other medical conditions you have which limit your ability to perform your job.
Migraine headaches can be as disabling as any other serious medical condition.
If you suffer from migraine headaches and it has impacted your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
In order to qualify for Social Security Disability, you will need to satisfy a few specific requirements in two categories as determined by the Social Security Administration.
The first category is the Work Requirements which has two tests.
- The Duration of Work test. Whether you have worked long enough to be covered under SSDI.
- The Current Work Test. Whether you worked recently enough for the work to actually count toward coverage.
The second category is the Medical Eligibility Requirement.
- Are you working? Your disability must be “total”.
- Is your medical condition severe? Your disability must be “severe” enough to interfere with your ability to perform basic work-related activities, such as walking, sitting, and remembering.
- Is your medical condition on the List of Impairments? The SSA has a “List of Impairments” that automatically qualify as “severe” disabilities. If your disease is not listed this does not mean you cannot get disability, it means you must prove you cannot maintain employment due to your limitations.
- Can you do the work you did before? SSDI rules look at whether your medical condition prevents you from doing the work you did prior to developing the condition.
- Can you do any other type of work? If you cannot do your prior work, an evaluation is made as to whether you can perform any other kind of work.
More details can be found on our Qualifying for Disability page.
Disability benefits are an important source of income for those who are unable to work. If you not able to work due to accident or illness, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability or Long Term Disability benefits. If you have applied for benefits and been denied, contact the attorneys at Bemis, Roach and Reed for a free consultation. Call 512-454-4000 and get help NOW.
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