Can I Work With Peripheral Neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy is the term for damage to nerves of the peripheral nervous system, which may be caused either by diseases of the nerve or from the side-effects of systemic illness.  Peripheral neuropathy often causes weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet, but it may also occur in other areas of your body.  Some forms of neuropathy involve damage to only one nerve and are called mononeuropathies. More often though, multiple nerves affecting all limbs are affected-called polyneuropathy.

Can you get disability benefits for peripheral neuropathy?  Like any other condition or impairment, the peripheral neuropathy must severely limit a claimants ability to work. The listing that applies for  peripheral neuropathy is found at listing 11.14 under neurological disorders.  To meet the criteria, there must be significant and persistent disorganization of motor function in two extremities resulting in sustained disturbance of gross and dexterous movements, or gait and station.

Even if you do not meet the listing, you may still qualify for disability benefits under the medical-vocational allowance.  See here for a discussion on the medical-vocational allowance.

Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy usually begin gradually and include:

  • A tingling sensation in the toes or in the balls of the feet that eventually spreads up the legs toward the trunk. Less commonly, the sensation may begin in the hands and spread up the arms.
  • Numbness in the hands and feet that spreads up the arms and legs.
  • Weakness or heaviness in muscles throughout the body. This may be accompanied by cramping, especially in the feet, legs, and hands.
  • Sensitive skin that may be painful to the touch; prickling, burning, tingling, or sharp stabbing sensations may occur spontaneously and usually worsen at night.
  • Foot drop, a condition in which it is difficult to lift the front of one or both feet.
  • Difficulty walking and/or problems with balance or coordination

Similar with any other disability case, you will need documentation or evidence to prove your case.  Your doctor will most likely have ordered tests for you to diagnose and treat the peripheral neuropathy.  Some common tests include: nerve conduction velocity studies (NCV), electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG), spinal tap, blood and urine tests, and imaging procedures such as a CAT scan or MRI scan.