Autoimmune diseases and workers’ compensation

aPatientInBed_vectorstock_2372704Many people in Illinois, and throughout the United States, suffer from autoimmune diseases. According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, approximately one in five people in the U.S. suffer from an autoimmune disease. These conditions develop when the body’s immune system perceives healthy cells as foreign, and attacks them. People who suffer from autoimmune diseases can experience a range of symptoms, from joint pain and inflammation, to fever, fatigue and general malaise.

The exact cause of these types of conditions is not fully understood. Experts have conducted research to suggest that genetics, as well as certain other triggers, may play a part in the contraction of autoimmune diseases. These triggers, some of which may be work-related, include exposure to bacteria, viruses, environmental irritants and chemical irritants.

Types of autoimmune diseases

There are currently between 80 and 100 identified autoimmune diseases from which people suffer. While some of these disorders are organ-specific, the autoimmune activity in other types can be spread all throughout the body. Some of the most common types of autoimmune diseases include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Scleroderma
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Psoriasis

Furthermore, it is possible for people to suffer from more than one autoimmune disorder at a time.

Who is at risk for autoimmune diseases?

Employees in varying occupations, who may or may not be genetically predisposed, could be at risk for developing this type of occupational illness. A number of research studies have shown evidence of a prospective link between certain occupational risks and the contraction of different autoimmune diseases. Work that involves significant public exposure, as well as work that results in employees’ exposure to certain chemicals, irritants and other types of solvents, has been shown to play a role.

For example, farmers may develop autoimmune diseases as a result of exposure to the pesticides they use in their fields. The New Jersey State Department of Health reports that workers in ranging occupations, including mining, sand blasting, and china or earthenware manufacturing, are at risk for developing silicosis. That particular autoimmune disease, studies have shown, can be caused when workers breathe in silica dust.

Workers’ compensation of autoimmune diseases

 Occupational autoimmune diseases, similar to other work-related injuries and illnesses, may also be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. In these cases, the types of workers’ benefits that may be provided include the coverage of medical treatment costs and disability pay, for workers who must take extended time off from work due to their condition. To be covered, however, a qualified physician, who also determines the condition to be work-related, must diagnose employees. In most cases, the date the condition is diagnosed is used in place of the accident date for the purposes of the filing time limitations.