The liver regulates fat and cholesterol levels in the blood and also detoxifies the blood. In addition, it regulates the immune system and helps your body fight infections. The largest internal organ, it is, in effect, the powerhouse of the body – therefore, when the liver is failing, the rest of the body will suffer along with it.
Symptoms of liver failure include blood that does not clot, leading to bruising easily; muscle weakness; fatigue; jaundice (yellowing of the skin); internal bleeding; and even mental changes. It can be either acute, such as drug-induced liver injury (DILI, often due to acetaminophen overdose), or chronic, such as hepatitis C or cirrhosis (scarring) due to alcohol abuse or birth defects.
For people with acute or chronic liver failure, a transplant is often necessary. However, the transplant itself can also have adverse side effects. Rejection by the body can cause symptoms not unlike those of liver failure. All transplant patients must also take immunosuppressant medications, and they may cause high blood pressure, diabetes, and even kidney damage.
Fortunately, for most people, these side effects subside or ease after a year, according to the National Institute of Health. However, for the first year following a liver transplant, the Social Security Administration (SSA) automatically considers you disabled and eligible for disability insurance, or SSDI. Once that year is over, they will re-evaluate your condition and determine your disability due to the transplant or other issues you may have afterward.
Even before you receive a liver transplant, you may be considered disabled. The SSA looks at the symptoms of acute and chronic liver diseases, as well as responses to treatment and severity and frequency of symptoms. Post-transplant, they will evaluate the functioning of your new liver and your body’s acceptance of it.
Even if your liver is functioning well after a year, the SSA may still find you disabled due to other related or unrelated causes. The side effects immunosuppressant medications may cause problems that fall under a different category, or you may have developed another disabling condition.
If you live in the Cleveland area and believe you have a liver disease or want to know more about liver transplants, doctors are available to help you. Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and UH Hospitals have clinics all over Cleveland and the surrounding cities. Visit their websites to find a doctor or specialist near you.