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Irritable Bowel Syndrome | Long Term Disability Claim Tips

Illnesses Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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Irritable Bowel Syndrome (also саllеd IBS, Spastic Colon, Mucous Colitis, Spastic Colitis, Nervous Stomach, or Irritable Colon) is a chronic condition involving the large intestine/bowel.  It is the most common condition diagnosed by gastroenterologists.  Individuals with Irritable Bowel Syndrome may experience abdominal pain, gas, constipation, cramping, and/or diarrhea.  Unfortunately, there is no cure for IBS.  Generally, the goal of treatment is to relieve your symptoms.

Knowing how to substantiate your Irritable Bowel Syndrome long-term disability claim (e.g., through medical evidence, proof of treatment, etc.) will increase your chances of approval.  Here’s what you need to know before filing your IBS long-term disability claim.

Disabling Symptoms оf Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Casual young man with stomach pain irritable bowel syndrome

The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be uncomfortable and distressing.  Symptoms vary considerably between individuals and are often worse after eating.  An IBS flare-up can last anywhere from 2 to 4 days or longer, depending on the severity of your condition.

When filing a disability claim, the insurance company will want to know all your symptoms so it can understand why they prevent you from working.  Generally, Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms include:

  • Cramping pains in the stomach
  • Excess gas
  • Painful diarrhea or constipation (or sometimes both)
  • Mucus in your stools
  • Swollen or blocked abdomen
  • Feeling that you haven't completed your bowel movement

Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms can also impact different parts of the body.  These additional symptoms can include:

  • Frequent urination
  • Halitosis, or bad breath
  • Headache
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Pain with sex (for females) or sexual dysfunction
  • Irregular menses

Anxiety and depression may also occur, often because of the discomfort and embarrassment that can accompany the condition.  As a result, many people with IBS report avoiding social situations.

How is Irritable Bowel Syndrome Diagnosed?

The insurance company will require proof of your Irritable Bowel Syndrome diagnosis for long-term disability.  Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to provide your diagnosis because your IBS symptoms can mimic other digestive disorders.  Diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome is also frequently delayed because many patients are reluctant or embarrassed to seek treatment.

When treatment is sought, there are no specific imaging or laboratory tests that can diagnose IBS.  So, the first step is to talk to your doctor.  Your doctor will likely take a complete medical history.  For example, your doctor may ask:

  • Have there been any changes in your bowel habits, such as diarrhea or constipation?
  • Is there any pain or discomfort in your abdomen?
  • How often do you feel bloated?
  • What are your eating habits? (g., high concentrations of milk fats, fried food, spicy food, junk food, etc. can cause patients to be more prone to IBS)
  • Do you have a family history of Irritable Bowel Syndrome? If a person has a history of IBS in their family, he or she may be more prone to Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.
  • Do you take acne medications or painkillers? These medications can cause inflammation in the intestines, colon, and stomach, leading to Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms.
  • Do you smoke?

After taking your history and learning about your symptoms, your doctor will likely conduct a physical examination to check for abdominal bloating, listen to bowel sounds within your abdomen, and tap on your abdomen to check for tenderness or pain.

Then, your doctor may administer testing to rule out other causes or conditions that produce IBS-like symptoms.  For instance, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests to look for lactose intolerance, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, or celiac disease
  • Stool tests to check for infections or issues involving nutritional absorption
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy to look for ulcers or polyps
  • Colonoscopy to rule out inflammatory bowel disease or cancer, for example
  • X-ray/CT scan to check for other conditions that may cause symptoms that mimic Irritable Bowel Syndrome, such as a cancerous growth or an intestinal blockage.

If specific signs or symptoms suggest another condition, further testing may be warranted. These other signs or symptoms may include:

  • Anemia
  • Localized swelling іn the rectum and abdomen 
  • Weight loss (unexplained)
  • Abdominal pain at night
  • Progressively worsening symptoms
  • Significant blood in the stool
  • A family history of inflammatory bowel disease, colorectal cancer, or celiac disease

Once other conditions are ruled out, your doctor can make the diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Types of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Your long-term disability insurance company will also want to know the type of Irritable Bowel Syndrome that you have.  There are three main types of IBS:

IBS with constipation (IBS-C)

  • There is stomach pain, discomfort, bloating, infrequent or delayed bowel movements, or hard or lumpy stools.

IBS with diarrhea (IBS-D)

  • There is stomach pain, discomfort, an urgent need to go to the toilet, very frequent bowel movements, or watery or loose stools.

IIBS with alternating stool pattern (IBS-A)

  • There is both constipation and diarrhea.

Notably, many people experience different types оf IBS as time goes by.

Appropriate Treatment for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

When evaluating Irritable Bowel Syndrome long-term disability claim, the insurance company will want to see that you’re receiving appropriate treatment.  The insurance company can easily use non-compliance and lack of appropriate care as a reason to deny your IBS long-term disability claim. 

However, because doctors do not know what causes Irritable Bowel Syndrome, іt can be extremely challenging to treat it.  However, there are many ways of alleviating and managing the symptoms.  Some treatment methods include:

Diet

Dietary factors often play a key role in causing IBS symptoms.  For example, symptoms of constipation or diarrhea may be worse after consuming certain products, such as chocolate, milk, or alcohol.  Some fruits, vegetables, and sodas can trigger bloating and discomfort.  Other common dietary triggers of cramping or bloating include:

  • Foods that cause flatulence, ѕuсh as beans, celery, onions, carrots, raisins, bananas, apricots, prunes, Brussel sprouts, pretzels, and bagels
  • Dairy products
  • Sugar-free gum
  • Sоome candies
  • Products with caffeine in them, possibly due to lactose (sugar), sorbitol, or caffeine intolerance, rather than IBS

Changes in eating habits may help control symptoms. Because there is no IBS diet that works for everybody, you may need tо go through a “trial and error” process to achieve a diet that works for you.  One way to help figure out what works is to keep a Food Diary.  Keeping, a record of foods eaten and their effect will help identify the major trigger foods. 

Other dietary supplements and dietary changes can have an impact on your symptoms.  For example:

  • Some people with IBS need to increase their fiber intake, while others have to consume less. A properly balanced level оf fiber in the diet can help promote healthy digestion.
  • Probiotics. These may help some people. However, the benefits of probiotics may take up to 4 weeks to appear.
  • Water Intake. If constipation is one of the symptoms, increasing water intake may be helpful.
  • Reducing the Intake of Certain Foods. Reducing tea, coffee, milk, cola drinks, beer, and spicy, fried or fatty foods may help.
  • Eating At Regular Intervals.
  • Stop Smoking.

Reduction of Anxiety and Stress

Sometimes anxiety and stress can trigger the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome. To relieve anxiety and stress, there are a number of exercises which wіll reduce your stress level.  For example, you may:

  • Perform relaxation techniques, including exercises or meditation
  • Engage in some specific physical activities, such as Tai Chi or yoga
  • Begin a regular physical exercise regimen
  • Attend stress counseling

Psychological Therapy

In addition to the anxiety and stress-reducing tactics, some psychological techniques can be useful.  For example:

  • Psychodynamic interpersonal therapy (PIT), where the therapist helps you explore your past to find out whether anything may be affecting you unconsciously.
  • Hypnotherapy can help your unconscious mind's attitude to symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) fosters strategies fоr reacting differently to the condition through relaxation techniques and a positive attitude.

Medications

Medications can also be helpful in alleviating some symptoms.  The following medications are uѕеd fоr IBS symptoms:

  • Antispasmodic medications reduce abdominal cramping and pain by relaxing the muscles in the gut.
  • Bulk-forming laxatives can help relieve constipation. These can be purchased over-the-counter or online, although they should be used with caution.
  • Antimotility medications for diarrhea include loperamide, which slows down the contractions of the intestinal muscles. Loperamide may be purchased online.
  • Trісусlіс antidepressant (TCAѕ) often help to reduce abdominal pain and cramping.

Examples of medications specific to IBS treatment include:

  • Alosetron (Lotronex) for severe diarrhea-predominant IBS in women
  • Lubiprostone (Amіtіza) fоr constipation-predomіnant IBS in women

Medications are usually the last line of treatment when other lifestyle or therapeutic interventions have failed, and symptoms remain severe.

Disability and Inability to Work Due to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

The symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome can be severe and disabling.  However, the insurance company may not understand the nature and significance of your symptoms, or how they impact your job.  To increase your chances of long-term disability claim approval, you can explain how and why each of your symptoms prevents you from performing your job duties. 

For example, diarrhea or the need to move your bowels 3 or 4 times before you leave the house, may cause you to be late for work constantly.  As a result, you may miss an important meeting or telephone call with a big client.  Once you get to work, your symptoms may force you to always be in close proximity to a bathroom in case of an IBS emergency. 

Your unexpected, frequent trips to the bathroom may force you to put a telephone call on hold, ditch a meeting, or cut a presentation short.  Worse yet, the prolonged, frequent bathroom visits can cause you to be "off task" for a significant portion of the workday.  This can be particularly problematic if you are required to meet strict deadlines.

In addition, your diarrhea and frequent bowel movements may cause you to be up all night running back and forth to the bathroom, resulting in severe fatigue the following day.  Alternatively, your constipation may cause severe abdominal pain and cramping, thereby reducing your ability to concentrate or focus on your job tasks. Your excess gas can not only be embarrassing but can also be distracting to co-workers -- leading to further reduced productivity.

For these reasons, it can be extremely helpful to explain how your symptoms prevent you from performing your job by preparing a written, detailed narrative for your insurance company.  Make sure your narrative addresses all your symptoms by listing them separately.  Because the symptoms of IBS can be episodic, your narrative should address the frequency of your symptoms, as well as the frequency and length of your trips to the bathroom. 

When determining whether your Irritable Bowel Syndrome is disabling, your insurance company will also want to opinions of your treating doctor(s).  Your doctor’s support is key.  Your doctor's reports should detail the frequency and severity of your symptoms, any positive physical examination findings, their direct observations of you during office visits, and the specific restrictions and limitations that prevent you from working. 

Your narrative and your doctor’s support will go a long way to help prove your Irritable Bowel Syndrome long-term disability claim.

Conclusion

Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a very common medical condition that can result in long-term disability.  It is very difficult to diagnose, and treatment can prove challenging.  Knowing how to substantiate your IBS long-term disability claim will significantly increase your chances of approval.  To get your Irritable Bowel Syndrome long-term disability claim approved, your claim should be supported by sufficient medical evidence and proof of your symptoms.  It is also important to explain and document your attempted treatment methods.  Don't assume the insurance company understands why your Irritable Bowel Syndrome is disabling.  You have to explain it in detail.

Helpful Links and Resources

Crohn's and Colitis Foundation

Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America

International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

Irritable Bowel Syndrome Resource Center

IBS Self-Help Group

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