If a person’s eczema is severe and significantly limits their major life activities, the condition may qualify as a disability. Schools and workplaces may also provide reasonable adjustments to help someone with eczema.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides benefits to people with disabilities in the United States through two programs: Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The SSA recognizes various skin disorders, including dermatitis, as disabilities. Someone with eczema, a type of dermatitis, may qualify for disability benefits in the United States if the SSA determines they meet certain criteria.

This article explains whether eczema is a type of disability, disability benefits for people with eczema, and work and school accommodations for eczema. It also looks at when to contact a doctor.

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According to the SSA, dermatitis is one of the skin conditions the agency evaluates as a disability. The SSA may determine that a person’s eczema qualifies as a disability if the condition meets certain criteria.

The SSA may provide disability benefits to someone with eczema, either through the SSDI or SSI programs, if a person can provide evidence that their eczema causes:

  • Chronic skin lesions or contractures: Skin lesions that cause pain or restrict movement could limit a person’s ability to perform work-related activities.
  • Other symptoms: The SSA will evaluate the severity of eczema symptoms, such as pain, and how these symptoms may affect a person’s ability to work.
  • Frequent exacerbations: The SSA will consider the frequency and severity of a person’s eczema exacerbations, or flare-ups, and how well a person can function between flare-ups.
  • Treatment: The SSA will evaluate the effects of a person’s treatment on their symptoms and their ability to function. A person must provide evidence that they have followed medical treatment for 3 months.

The Americans with Disabilities Act

Eczema may also qualify as a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.

According to the ADA, a person with a disability is:

  • someone with a physical or mental impairment that significantly limits activities such as:
    • movement
    • sensory function
    • everyday activities and tasks, such as working
  • someone with a history or record of an impairment
  • someone others perceive as having an impairment, including visible signs of impairment such as burns or lesions

Eczema may qualify as a disability, according to the ADA’s definition, because it can substantially limit various major life activities, including:

  • Sleep: Around one-third of adults and 67% of children with eczema experience sleep disturbances.
  • Work: Adults with eczema collectively take around 5.9 million workdays off per year due to the condition.
  • School: 3.9% of children miss more than 15 school days per year due to eczema.

If the SSA determines a person’s eczema meets the specific criteria, they may provide disability benefits. The criteria for eczema to qualify as a disability are the same for both SSA disability benefit options, the SSDI and SSI programs:

  • SSDI: This program provides benefits to people with disabilities that prevent or limit their ability to work. The benefits may include a monthly payment, which can vary depending on a person’s previous work history, and Medicare.
  • SSI: This program provides monthly benefits to people with disabilities and people ages 65 years and older with little or no income. The payment amount can vary depending on a person’s income, possessions, and living situation.

How to apply for disability benefits

A person can apply for disability benefits on the SSA website or set up an appointment with an SSA agent over the phone at 800-772-1213 (TTY: 800-325-0778).

A person may require the following information and documents for the application process:

  • Social Security number
  • date and place of birth
  • medical information, including the names and contact information of their health professionals
  • medical records
  • employment history
  • tax information

The ADA prevents workplace discrimination against people with disabilities and entitles people to reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable accommodations in the workplace include changes to the work environment and the job to allow a person with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job with equal employment opportunities.

Reasonable accommodations should not cause undue hardship to the employer. A person can discuss different accommodations with their employer based on their needs.

Changes in the workplace that could help a person manage their eczema include:

  • allowing the use of a private area to apply emollients
  • adapting uniforms or dress requirements to accommodate loose-fitting, non-irritating work attire
  • supplying non-irritating, fragrance-free cleaning and hygiene products in bathrooms
  • changing the temperature to avoid extreme heat or cold, or allowing personal heating or cooling devices, such as heaters or fans

Parents of children with eczema should discuss their child’s needs with relevant school staff, such as the school principal, teachers, and the school nurse.

The parents of a child with eczema and the school staff can work together to create a plan for accommodations. These may include:

  • providing access to medication and emollients
  • allowing non-irritating clothing
  • helping prevent or limit exposure to triggers, such as sweating and overheating
  • providing non-irritating, fragrance-free hand cleanser in bathrooms

Parents and school staff can also work together to develop a 504 plan. A 504 plan is a provision of the Federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibits discrimination against children with disabilities.

Each 504 plan is unique and differs based on a child’s needs.

A person with eczema should contact a doctor if the condition:

Someone who plans to apply for disability benefits due to eczema should contact a doctor, as they will need to prove that they have adhered to medical treatment to qualify.

A person with eczema may qualify for disability benefits if their condition meets the SSA criteria. The SSA assesses various skin conditions, including dermatitis, as potential disabilities.

The SSA will evaluate each person’s case individually, and assess factors such as their symptoms, treatment, the severity and frequency of their eczema flare-ups, and how these affect a person’s ability to work.

If the agency determines that a person’s eczema does qualify as a disability, benefits may include monthly payments.

The ADA also protects people with disability from discrimination and allows for equal opportunities and reasonable accommodations in the workplace.