Consider the case of Martha, a 38-year-old elementary school teacher. About two years ago, Martha noticed she was having a certain difficulty holding onto small objects. A year after that, even colleagues noticed that Martha’s hands often shook with an irregular tremor, and there was a shaky sound to her voice. The tremor worsened when she was under stress, even when she tried not to shake.
Today, Martha’s gait has become unsteady, and she now uses a cane to walk most of the time. She is no longer able to write by hand, and typing lesson plans on the computer keyboard has become a frustrating challenge. She continues to work at school, even though she recognizes that she should not be driving and that she can no longer always maintain control over her fourth grade classroom. She lives in constant worry that her declining physical health will force the principal to fire her.
Fortunately, Martha’s primary care doctor referred her to an excellent specialist in neurology. After just a few tests, the neurologist was able to reassure Martha that her condition wasn’t Parkinson’s disease—as she had feared—and wasn’t likely to be fatal. It’s a chronic condition that millions of Americans live with, called essential tremor.
About essential tremor
Essential tremor (ET) typically first shows up as uncontrollable rhythmic spasms in the hands or arms, although other limbs may also be affected. The tremors are most prominent when the limb is being used and tend to fade when the limb is at rest. This is one of the key distinctions of the disease: tremor symptoms of other disorders (notably Parkinson’s disease) worsen when the limb is at rest and diminish when the limb is being used.
For essential tremor, the tremor itself is often the only symptom of the disease. The tremor may spread to affect the lower limbs or even the voice, giving speech a vibrato quality. Although ET is not generally considered a degenerative condition, in most patients, it is a progressive disease. It may demonstrate periods of remission and relapsing. Many patients find that, as the disease progresses, they have difficulty with carrying moderate weights and performing tasks that require fine control of motor skills. Some cases may be so severe as to interfere with basic activities of daily living.
There is no definitive test for essential tremor. In most cases, the diagnosis is made after ruling out other ailments. The condition seems to have a strong genetic component; about half of all patients know of a relative with similar symptoms. Some researchers have speculated that environmental conditions or certain infections can “switch on” a genetic propensity to develop essential tremor. Other experts believe that, because no single common origin can be found for all ET cases, essential tremor is best considered a family of related disorders.
There is no cure. Some medicines and therapeutic treatments can relieve the symptoms in some patients, but none of these remedies works with everyone.
Essential tremor and Social Security Disability benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is a program that provides monthly payments to Americans with a solid work history who find themselves unable to hold down a job due to illness or injury.
Many neurological conditions are sufficiently serious to qualify people for SSDI benefits. Essential tremor, however, is not always a significant impediment to employment. If you are applying for SSDI in Pennsylvania because of a neurological condition such as essential tremor, you will need to provide detailed medical evidence that your condition is truly disabling. In addition, you need to show that your work history was extensive enough and recent enough to fall within SSDI rules.
Most people who apply for Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits have their cases initially rejected, often on technical grounds. For this reason, it’s important you gain the assistance of a Social Security benefits lawyer as early as possible.
The lawyers at Schmidt Kramer can help you construct a watertight application, or they can file an appeal on your behalf if your original claim was denied. Call us today at 717-888-8888 or (888) 476-0807 toll-free to schedule a free, confidential case review.