ASK THE ADVOCATE: I am 25 years old and I have the worst case of eczema known on earth! Mostly it’s on my hands. They are so bad that the skin cracks and leaks. I can’t bend my fingers. I need help even getting dressed because my hands are so bad. My doctor has given me creams and sometimes a round of steroids, but nothing helps. Can I qualify?
ANSWER: It’s not a slam dunk, but it sounds like you have a severe case. Atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a condition that makes your skin red and itchy. It’s common in children but can occur at any age. Atopic dermatitis is long lasting (chronic) and tends to flare periodically. It may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever.
No cure has been found for atopic dermatitis. But treatments and self-care measures can relieve itching and prevent new outbreaks. For example, it helps to avoid harsh soaps, moisturize your skin regularly, and apply medicated creams or ointments.
Atopic dermatitis (eczema) signs and symptoms vary widely from person to person and include:
Dry skin and/or Itching, which may be severe, especially at night
Red to brownish-gray patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees, and in infants, the face and scalp
Small, raised bumps, which may leak fluid and crust over when scratched
Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
Raw, sensitive, swollen skin from scratching
Atopic dermatitis most often begins before age 5 and may persist into adolescence and adulthood. For some people, it flares periodically and then clears up for a time, even for several years.
SSA will take into account how extensive your skin lesions are, what parts of the body they affect, the severity of the symptoms, the frequency of your flare ups, how you respond to treatment, and, most importantly how your combination of symptoms, including your pain, affects your ability to perform day to day tasks which would be expected on a job site.
It is important that you remain under a physician’s care and that all treatment is fully documented, including your response, or lack of response to treatment. To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, your condition must continue to hinder you from performing work despite being under medical treatment for at least three months.
Generally speaking, to qualify for benefits with dermatitis, your disabling condition needs to affect both arms/hands, both legs/feet, or one arm and one leg severely enough that you are unable to use them to perform work or your ability to walk from one place to another. The specifics of the SSA’s requirements for skin disorders are covered in Section 8.00 of the Blue Book. Dermatitis, in particular is covered in Listing 8.05 in the Blue Book.
When you file your disability claim, make sure that you have full medical documentation for all flare ups and treatments. It is best if the doctor includes descriptive analysis regarding what kinds of activities you are hindered from performing rather than simply reporting medical finding which may or may not convince an SSA examiner that you are incapable of continuing to work.