When is Arthritis a Disability?

When Is Arthritis a Disability?

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  • When Is Arthritis a Disability?

    When Is Arthritis a Disability?

    Arthritis means more than just pain. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 50 million Americans suffer from this musculoskeletal disease. It’s also the most prevalent reason for disability in the workplace.

    Left untreated, arthritis can eventually lead to disability. But sometimes, even treated cases can become disabling.

    Understanding the progression of arthritis can help you and your doctor take action now, before your condition becomes severe.

  • Understanding Disability

    Understanding Disability

    A disability limits your normal movements and activities. It can stem from a mental condition, but arthritis disabilities are physical.

    There are two main types of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). RA is an autoimmune condition that can be passed down from family members who have related diseases. OA refers to the deterioration of joint cartilage.

    In total, there are over 100 forms of arthritis. All types can cause pain and inflammation.

  • Mobility Effects

    Mobility Effects

    Pain is a noticeable symptom of arthritis. It occurs because bones rub against each other without the cushioning of cartilage. Being overweight increases your odds for RA and the intensity of pain you experience.

    Arthritis can affect any joint in the body, including:

    • knees
    • hands
    • elbows
    • shoulders
    • hips
    • feet

    Arthritic pain can limit your range of motion and eventually your overall mobility. Lack of mobility is the primary feature of a physical disability.

  • Problems Beyond Your Joints

    Problems Beyond Your Joints

    Joint pain is characteristic of arthritis, but it’s not the only symptom you may experience. This is especially true of certain forms of the disease such as OA.

    RA can cause skin rashes and organ problems. Gout, another type of arthritis, may cause the skin surrounding your joints to become red and inflamed (swollen).

    Lupus is perhaps one of the most painful forms of arthritis. Symptoms include:

    • swelling and redness
    • excessive fatigue
    • fever
    • breathing difficulties

    Such symptoms can make even the simplest daily tasks extremely difficult.

  • Work Is a Pain

    Work Is a Pain

    An arthritis-related disability often becomes apparent when you it causes you too much discomfort to function at work. The CDC reports that one in 20 adults with arthritis, ages 18 to 64, are unable to work. This statistic is based on medically diagnosed patients.

    The numbers may actually be higher, considering that many people suffer from undiagnosed arthritis pain. Arthritis can make physically demanding jobs difficult, and joint discomfort can even make office work painful.

  • Arthritis Disability Criteria

    Arthritis Disability Criteria

    The criteria used to determine disability is based on which activities you find difficult or impossible to complete. Examples include:

    • walking up stairs
    • walking for ¼ of a mile
    • standing or sitting for two hours
    • grasping small objects with hands
    • lifting 10 pounds or more
    • holding arms up

    Based on the criteria, you may be diagnosed with specific work or social limitations.

  • Costs and Economic Effects

    Costs and Economic Effects

    Being disabled with a long-term condition can quickly deplete your bank account. According to the CDC, lost work days due to arthritis cost the United States an estimated $47 billion in 2003.

    The condition itself brings on even more expenses to the medical sector and to the government, which funds disability programs. In fact, the Arthritis Foundation reports an estimated annual cost of $128 billion to the U.S. economy.

  • Role of Exercise

    Role of Exercise

    Arthritis makes it hard to move. But, not exercising can bring upon greater problems. For example, it increases your chance for developing chronic illnesses such as obesity.

    Additionally, exercise can alleviate arthritis symptoms. With your doctor’s consent, try low-impact workouts such as:

    • water aerobics
    • stationary bicycling
    • moderate walking
    • tai chi
    • strength training (with light weights)
  • A Joint Effort

    A Joint Effort

    Disability poses significant challenges to arthritis patients. Keep in mind that arthritis doesn’t always lead to disability. Early detection and treatment can help prevent it.

    A healthy weight and exercise can help too, and your doctor can recommend medications to relieve pain. Treatment also increases your chances of a better long-term outcome.

    Ignoring joint pain will only worsen your prognosis.