Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) affects roughly 1.5 million people in the US and it affects women up to 3 times more than men, according to the Rheumatoid Arthritis Support Network.

RA is an autoimmune disease, where a person’s own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in their body, including the joints. These attacks result in chronic inflammation that can cause long-term pain and damage to elastic tissue and cartilage. This damage generally cannot be reversed.

The most common areas of the body affected are the ankles, elbows, feet, hands, knees and wrists, but the inflammation caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis can also affect the skin, eyes, heart, lungs and even blood vessels.

The source of RA is still unknown. Doctors and researchers think that one’s genes may make one more susceptible to rheumatoid arthritis, but don’t yet actually understand the cause of the disease; they think that environmental factors such as infections, viruses and/or bacteria may be the trigger.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms and Treatments

RA symptoms will vary based on the stage of progression and the part of the body under attack. You might experience joint swelling and redness in the early days. This could lead to joint pain and tenderness along with additional symptoms, such as stiffness in the morning, several joints affected, dry eyes, shortness of breath, anemia and gum infection.

The treatment should be aggressive, particularly if caught in the early stages, to combat and prevent inflammation and further damage in a rapid manner. You might be prescribed various medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, inhibitors, biologics or corticosteroids. In extreme cases, you may require surgery for joint replacements, such as knee and hip replacement surgeries.

Does Rheumatoid Arthritis Qualify Me for SSDI Disability Benefits?

Rheumatoid arthritis is discussed in the Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” listing of disabling conditions, in ​Section 14​ (Immune Disorders) under ​paragraph 14.09 (Inflammatory arthritis).

It is possible to receive Social Security Disability benefits with a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis.

To consider whether you meet the listing exactly (which isn’t always necessary, see below), the SSA will review your medical records to see what your test results have been, including inflammation blood tests and blood antibody tests. They will also look to see whether you have chronic or repeated manifestations of inflammatory arthritis, among many other possible signs and symptoms. Other immune disorder listings will also be considered, to determine whether you equal another listing besides 14.09.

But remember, you don’t need to exactly meet a Blue Book listing to qualify for disability benefits. Because, at the end of the day, what the SSA generally cares about most is whether or not your Rheumatoid 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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Next Steps

If you or a loved one have Rheumatoid 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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