If you suffer from arthritis, you understand the many ways this disease can cut into daily life, causing you to change the way you function in normal everyday situations. In fact, almost 21 million people are affected by one of the more than 100 types of arthritis, making it the most common cause of disability in the United States.
One of the most disabling forms of this disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), affects 1.3 million Americans. This chronic disease can make it impossible to work, and for that reason it is included in the Social Security disability system’s “Listing of Impairments.”
What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Any form of arthritis involves inflammation of the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is different from certain other types of arthritis in that it occurs in both sides of the body. For example, if one wrist is affected, the other is as well.
RA is considered an autoimmune disease—a type of arthritis that occurs when your immune system fails to protect your body. In fact, RA actually attacks your body’s cells and tissues. It is a chronic (long-term) condition, and it affects everyone differently.
Women are two to three times more likely than men to develop RA, and it generally begins in middle age (between the ages of 40 and 60), although other age groups are also affected.
What are the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?
The main symptom of RA is inflammation of the joints, often beginning with those in the hands and wrists. If you have RA, you might exhibit several or all of the following symptoms:
- Stiffness in the joints and/or muscles, which generally is present in the morning when you arise. The stiffness may continue for hours before eventually subsiding.
- Swelling, redness, and warmth in the joints.
- Pain in the affected joints, which can spread to the hips, knees, ankles, shoulders, and elbows.
- Fatigue, elevated temperature, and loss of weight.
- Rheumatoid nodules, or firm bumps of tissue that can appear under the skin on your arms.
Many people with RA find that these symptoms may come and go. When the disease progresses to more serious stages, though, the joints can sustain damage that causes them to shift and become deformed.
If RA has forced you to reduce your hours at work or even quit your job, you may want to consider getting help from the Social Security disability system. Unfortunately, sometimes applying for Massachusetts SSA disability benefits can be complicated and confusing.
As New England SSA disability experts, Keefe Disability Law can provide the advice and legal expertise you need to get your questions answered and file a successful claim. Call us toll free today or fill out the confidential form on this page to see the many ways we can help you.