Clients frequently come in to our office and are shocked to learn that many of the conditions from which they suffer, are potentially work related. Apart from the usual orthopedic and presumptive injuries, many safety members have gastrointestinal complaints, high blood pressure, diabetes, hearing loss, actinic keratosis, pulmonary issues, sleep disturbance and sexual dysfunction. Many of these medical conditions can develop as a result of stress and strain of the job. Additionally, some medical issues can result from taking medications for work related injuries.
One of the most common physical complaints reported by our clients is acid reflux, or a burning sensation in the stomach. Many of our clients take Tums or Pepto Bismal on a daily basis. These symptoms are usually associated with Gastro esophageal Reflux Disease and can lead to much more serious conditions. Medical evidence has established a nexus between stress and reflux disease. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, Motrin, and Advil, can also have an affect on the upper digestive track. Other similar work related conditions include, irritable bowl syndrome (IBS), diarrhea, hemorrhoids, and ulcers.
There is a common misconception that hypertension is a presumptive injury. High blood pressure alone, does not invoke the presumption under the Labor Code. In order for hypertension to fall within the presumption, it needs to be accompanied by heart trouble. Nevertheless, hypertension is a very common injury found in safety members. Hypertension can be proven to result from the physical and emotional stress of the job, without the need to utilize the presumption.
Diabetes has been proven to result from or be aggravated by erratic shift work, as well as stress and strain of the job. Additionally, the pain and trauma from an orthopedic injury can affect the development of diabetes.
Exposure to loud noise, such as radio sirens, gun fire and street traffic can cause hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing in the ear).
Although skin cancer is considered a presumptive injury, the pre cancerous skin condition called Actinic Keratosis, is not presumptive. Exposures to sunlight and chemicals have been shown to cause skin problems which can develop into skin cancer. These non presumptive conditions can still be proven to be work related.
In addition to the presumptive condition of pneumonia, many safety members suffer from asthma and sinusitis. These conditions can be lit up or aggravated by exposures to dust, irritants and pollutants from performing peace officer duties.
Stress can manifest itself by way of high blood pressure, gastro intestinal issues, psychiatric issues as well as sleep disturbance. It is very common to hear our clients complain of the inability to sleep. A sleep disorder can also be due to sleep apnea, which may be deemed work related as well. Sleep problems can also develop due to orthopedic pain.
Many medications, especially for high blood pressure, can cause sexual dysfunction. Additionally, it is not uncommon to develop sexual dysfunction as a result of a spinal injury, or the pain resulting from an orthopedic injury.
It is important to have these injuries covered thru workers’ compensation, as the medical treatment needed to cure or relieve from the effects of these injuries can be exorbitant. For example, hearing aids can cost upward of $4000.00. The CPAP machine used for sleep apnea can cost several thousands of dollars. The co-pay for medication needed to maintain high blood pressure can add up to hundreds of dollars a year.
In addition to medical treatment coverage, if these conditions are deemed work related, the employer will be required to pay permanent disability (monetary compensation) for any permanent residual disability arising from these conditions. It is recommended that these conditions be covered prior to retirement, however, depending on the individual case, these conditions may be litigated post retirement.