At least 54 million people in the US suffer from some form of arthritis, a disease of the joints resulting in pain and stiffness, and sometimes limited mobility. It may be degenerative, inflammatory, trauma-related, or caused by an autoimmune or other disease.
Arthritis can occur anywhere in the body you have joints – spine, knees, hips, feet/toes, and hands/wrist are all very common locations for arthritis, but by no means the only ones. To date, there are over 100 medically categorized types of arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and it affects roughly 31 million of the 54 million arthritis sufferers in the US. You might also suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, gout, or psoriatic arthritis, to name just a few.
Arthritis Symptoms and Treatments
The symptoms of arthritis occur once cartilage is affected enough that it begins to cause pain, stiffness and swelling. The most frequently experienced signs of osteoarthritis will be fairly similar in individuals who have that form; however, each type of arthritis may have a unique set of symptoms. The signs and symptoms of arthritis might include limitations in your range of motion and the feeling of tenderness or stiffness in your joints. You might feel or hear your joints rubbing, cracking or grating. Over time, the erosion of your joints and bones may become excruciating and debilitating. Eventually, in some people, it can prevent you from doing certain tasks required for your job and many activities you used to enjoy.
The causes of arthritis include broken bones, bacterial infections, viral infections, autoimmune disease and natural deterioration of joints due to age. To confirm you have arthritis, your doctor will typically administer an imaging test, like an x-ray and/or an MRI. The symptoms will sometimes be addressed by your doctor with medication, splints, braces, assistive devices (like a cane), lifestyle changes and/or physical therapy.
In some instances, a doctor may determine that over-the-counter medication will be enough to manage the pain. In other cases, you may suffer greatly whenever a flare-up occurs. Some people will require long-term prescription medication, and some will need surgery.
Does Arthritis Qualify Me for Disability Benefits?
Arthritis is included in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” listing of disabling conditions, and is addressed mostly in Section 1 (Musculoskeletal System) under paragraph 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint(s) (due to any cause)), and paragraph 1.04 (disorders of the spine). Many other types of arthritis are listed in Section 14 (Immune) under paragraph 14.09 (inflammatory arthritis). You do not necessarily need to meet a listed impairment in order to be approved for benefits, though.
Simply being diagnosed with arthritis, by itself, will often not qualify you for disability benefits, unless it is severe enough, which the SSA will decide by looking at your medical records and other evidence. Because, at the end of the day, what the SSA generally cares about most is whether or not your arthritis meets certain requirements, including:
- That it rises to the level of a “severe impairment”, meaning it impacts your ability to do work;
- That it, combined with any other impairments you may have, prevent you from sustaining work;
- That it has affected you, or is expected to affect you, for at least one year (or to result in death).
If that is the case, then you may very well qualify for monthly disability benefits.
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If you have arthritis and are considering a claim for disability benefits, we recommend you read our articles about the process of applying for SSDI and the way the Social Security Administration uses their Sequential Evaluation Process to determine disability.
This article is presented for general information purposes only. Nothing in this article should be taken as medical advice. Medical decisions (including whether to start, stop, or modify any treatment plan) are extremely important and should always be made with the advice and counsel of a qualified medical professional.
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