Due to its destructive nature and ability to destroy nerves and blood vessels, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has included most forms of Diabetes Sign With a Stethoscopediabetes in its list of qualifying disability conditions.

Diabetes is a serious and deadly disease that affects over 29 million people in the United States. As a result of causing dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar, diabetes can have a direct hand in causing serious conditions throughout the body. The most common area affected by these complications is the feet—peripheral neuropathy and diabetes insipidus. However, the feet aren’t the only body parts that can suffer life-altering and debilitating consequences of these conditions.

Diabetic retinopathy (DR) is a severe complication of diabetes that affects the eyes rather than the limbs of a diabetic. Depending on the aggressiveness of the condition, the SSA acknowledges DR as an eligible symptom of diabetes worthy of disability consideration.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes interferes with the body's ability to store and properly use sugar (glucose). Diabetic retinopathy is a serious sight-threatening complication of diabetes. Over time, the excess sugar in the blood damages the blood vessels in the retina—the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. The tiny blood vessels become swollen and leak blood and other fluids in the space between the retina and the lens. This causes the retinal tissue to swell and disrupt the patient’s vision.

The condition usually affects both eyes and the longer a person suffers from diabetes, the more likely he will develop diabetic retinopathy.

Symptoms of Diabetic Retinopathy

Often the early stages of diabetic retinopathy have no visual symptoms. It’s impossible to see sugars in the blood, even when they begin to accumulate in the retina. However, when you experience long periods of high blood sugar, the excess glucose will begin to draw fluid out of the vessels. This fluid will pool around the inside lens of the eye and will be noticeable as the weight of the fluid begins to change the curvature of the lens. Notable symptoms will include:

  • Blurred vision. The build-up of fluid between your lens and retina will obstruct your vision and make it appear as though you’re looking through water—which you technically are.

  • Seeing spots or floaters. Again, as you’ll have excess fluid between your lens and retina, your vision will be distorted. As light passes through your lens, it will become refracted within and throughout the fluid, causing you to see dark or colorful spots in some places and empty holes in others.

  • Night blindness. As the condition worsens, focusing in changing light can become difficult, if not impossible. Your retinas and corneas need light to focus and in cases of DR, the light must pass through the pooling liquid. This means that night blindness can be more severe for DR sufferers.

  • Complete blindness. If left untreated, diabetic retinopathy can permanently alter the curvature of the lens, which can lead to a complete inability to focus and overall blindness.

Applying for Benefits for Diabetic Retinopathy

If you suffer from DR, the SSA understands that it can be difficult to execute basic work functions efficiently. Retinopathy in addition to diabetes can require additional care and daily complications that can affect your workability. As a result, depending on the severity of your condition, filing for disability may be your best option.

Before applying, it’s important to know that just because you have the condition doesn’t guarantee that your claim will be approved. The Social Security Administration demands a certain level of severity as well as extensive evidence of your condition in order to justify government aid. Requirements for approval include the following:

  • Confirmation of the condition. Medical records, physician statements, and diagnostics from your hospital can be used to prove the existence and severity of your condition. These documents can help to persuade the Social Security Administration to give your claim serious thought.

  • Severity and working disability confirmation of condition. Being diagnosed with DR still may not be enough to convince the SSA that you can’t work. Documentation from your employer and doctor’s notes on limitations can help to show how your symptoms directly impact your ability to provide for yourself. Furthermore, you must be able to explain that your condition has or will continue for at least one full year. In some cases, controlling blood sugar levels can improve DR effects.

The claim process can be extremely confusing and is downright complicated. Completing a standardized form isn’t necessarily overwhelming. However, correctly completing a form is a little tougher if you don’t have adequate resources and knowledge of the system. Contact our office today to see how we can help you better understand the process. Call 508-283-5500 now to get one step closer to receiving your disability benefits.

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 508.283.5500 to schedule your free consultation.


John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney, Massachusetts Social Security Disability Lawyer