Can I Work With Ichthyosis?

Ichthyosis is an interesting term derived from ancient Greek that literally means ‘fish.’ It is a grouping of roughly thirty rare, incurable genetic skin diseases that all have similar symptoms: dry, scaly, flaky skin. It is caused from a genetic mutation that hinders the skin’s natural regeneration, signaling it to produce skin cells either too fast or too slow and resulting in tough, thickened skin or extreme shedding. Types of ichthyosis vary in severity, with the most common type being ichthyosis vulgaris, which is often not even diagnosed because it appears to be a simple case of dry skin. The more rare types of ichthyosis are easily diagnosable at birth. The harlequin type is the most severe and life-threatening. Infants that are born with this rare form of ichthyosis have a slim survival rate and will have lifelong effects. The extremity of the scaling skin impairs normal growth and leaves the infant at high risk for infection and dehydration.

Although ichthyosis normally affects the skin (most often that of the back, shins, and arms), it can also affect the eyes and vascular system. Its symptoms are mostly treated with creams and emollients applied to wet skin, as well as bathing with mild soaps. Creams that contain substances like urea and salycilic acid that encourage sloughing of the skin are also used, in addition to oral treatments known as retinoids.

Ichthyosis is one of the impairments listed in the Social Security Administration's Blue Book. If your ichthyosis is severe enough (or includes flare-ups that are severe enough) to hinder your ability to work, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. Other factors that are considered are your treatments and whether they are alleviating your symptoms. Children with ichthyosis do not qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance, but may qualify for Social Security Income benefits.

Ichthyosis and Your Ability to Perform Physical Work

Since ichthyosis causes either thickening or shedding of the skin, it may cause some movement to be difficult, and even painful, deponding upon if there is contact. Ichthyosis most commonly affects areas of the back, arms and shins, which may all be involved in physical work. If you apply for Social Security Disability because of your ichthyosis, you will be required to prove that it significantly hinders your ability to perform the three SSA- defined levels of physical work that all include range of motion and lifting. To qualify you for Social Security Disability, ichthyosis must affect at least two key areas of the body associated with movement; such as the joints, feet, and hands. Even if your ichthyosis is not always severe enough to hinder you from using these key areas on regular basis, if your flare-ups are severe enough to equal the qualifying impairment, you may still be approved.

Ichthyosis and Your Ability to Perform Sedentary Work

If you have been diagnosed with severe ichthyosis, you may find it difficult to perform even sedentary work, defined by the SSA as work that requires up to six hours of sitting with only occasional lifting or squatting. Sedentary jobs require dexterity of the hands in executing repetitive motions, tasks that may be too difficult for the painful, movement-hindering effects of ichthyosis. Sitting in chair with itchy, flaky skin may also be too painful for any length of time. If there is sufficient proof that you cannot perform sedentary job functions, you may qualify for Social Security Disability.

The severity of your ichthyosis will largely determine your need and eligibility for Social Security Disability benefits. It may be difficult to prove that your ichthyosis is extreme enough to hinder you from performing any work, whether physical or sedentary, especially if you have been able to perform such work in the past. This is expecially true, since it is a life-long disease the usually appears in early childhood. However, in some cases ichthyosis develops as a result of another condition, such as HIV, which in itself may not have hindered your ability to complete job tasks. Whatever your situation, you will need plenty of medical documentation for your case. It would be in your best interest to consult a Social Security Disability attorney or lawyer to help you with your case, as they will be able to guide you in the process.