Qualifying for SSDI for Painful Bladder Syndrome

Woman holding bladder in painPainful bladder syndrome, also known as interstitial cystitis or IC, is a complex and chronic genitourinary disorder characterized by an inflamed or irritated bladder wall and symptoms such as bladder or pelvic pain or pressure, and urinary urgency and frequency. The pain and discomfort associated with interstitial cystitis – as well as the need to urinate up to 60 times daily, rather than the typical six to eight times per day – can make holding a job and participating in substantial gainful employment impossible.

If you can’t work due to painful bladder syndrome, you may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Unfortunately, getting approved for SSDI benefits for interstitial cystitis can be challenging. The condition is notoriously difficult to diagnose, and because it causes similar symptoms, it’s often confused for a urinary tract infection (UTI). Also, it isn’t included in the Social Security Administration (SSA) Blue Book Listing of Impairments, which means you’ll have to complete a residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment to prove that your IC is sufficiently disabling.  

Here’s what you should know about qualifying for SSDI for painful bladder syndrome, including the five-step process the SSA uses to evaluate disability applications based on interstitial cystitis and how the skilled Boston attorneys with Keefe Disability Law can help you fight for benefits.

Living With Painful Bladder Syndrome 

IC symptoms can vary from person to person and wax and wane over time, flaring in response to triggers, such as exercise and other physical activities, sexual intercourse, stress, and sitting for long periods of time. People who suffer from painful bladder syndrome can experience the following:

  • Chronic pelvic pain
  • A persistent, pressing need to urinate 
  • Pain in the pelvis or between the vagina and anus (in women)
  • Pain between the scrotum and anus (in men)
  • Pain in the vagina (in women)
  • Pain in the testicles or penis (in men)
  • Pressure in the bladder or pelvis 
  • Frequent urination, often of small amounts
  • Sleep disruption, due to frequent nighttime urination (nocturia)
  • Discomfort or pain as the bladder fills and relief after urinating 
  • Urinary hesitancy 
  • A burning sensation in the urethra while urinating (dysuria)
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse 
  • Pain that worsens with certain foods or drinks
  • Pain in the lower back or thighs 
  • Chronic fatigue or tiredness 
  • Anxiety and depression 

Proving Your Medical Impairment 

Between the frequent pain and urination, the constant exhaustion from getting up at night to use the restroom, and the inability to perform physical tasks or sit for long periods (common interstitial cystitis triggers), it may be clear to you that working and engaging in substantial gainful employment is no longer possible. However, to get SSDI, you have to prove your impairment to the SSA with medical evidence from acceptable medical sources. Medical signs and laboratory findings that can support an interstitial cystitis diagnosis include:

  • Stiffening of the bladder wall (fibrosis)
  • Pinpoint bleeding on the bladder wall caused by recurrent irritation (diffuse glomerulations)
  • Patches of broken skin on the bladder wall (Hunner’s ulcers)
  • Repeated sterile urine cultures while IC symptoms continue (eliminating UTI as a potential cause)
  • Positive potassium sensitivity test (Parson's test) 
  • Antiproliferative factor (APF) accumulation in the urine

Additionally, because painful bladder syndrome isn’t included in the Blue Book, you will need to complete an RFC assessment with your doctor to prove that your condition is disabling. The RFC is an in-depth evaluation of your physical and cognitive limitations and what you can do despite them.

The SSDI Evaluations Process for Interstitial Cystitis 

All SSDI applications undergo a five-step sequential evaluation process. Here’s what that process looks like when applying for benefits for painful bladder syndrome:

  1. Substantial gainful activity. The SSA will examine your earnings to determine if you qualify for benefits. In 2022, most applicants could earn up to $1,350 per month ($2,260 monthly for blind applicants) and still qualify.
  2. Duration of disability. Your impairment must be severe and expected to last for at least a year or result in death. As a chronic disorder with no cure, IC meets this requirement.
  3. Meeting or equaling a listing. The SSA will review the provided medical evidence to determine whether your condition meets a listing in the Blue Book or is equally disabling.
  4. RFC assessment. If the SSA decided you didn’t equal a listing, an RFC assessment can show how the symptoms of painful bladder syndrome affect your functional capacity in the workplace.
  5. Relevant past work and ability to adjust. The SSA will examine your work history to determine if you can do any past relevant work or, if not, adjust to any other type of employment.

Are You Looking for a Social Security Disability Attorney in Boston, MA?

If you are looking to apply for Social Security disability, you need to speak with an experienced Social Security disability lawyer as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Natick Office directly at 888.904.6847 to schedule your free consultation.


Patrick Hartwig
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Managing Attorney, Keefe Disability Law