Everything to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability (2022)

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating disease that can affect walking, using your hands, and the ability to manage activities of daily life, including self-care. RA can also lead to function and mobility limitations and even cause permanent disability due to bone erosion (loss of bone) andjointdeformity.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune, inflammatory disease where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissues. This response—called autoimmunity—causes inflammation (painful swelling) that attacks the linings of joints and other tissues, including the organs, throughout the body.

Everything to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis Disability (1)

What Is a Disability?

The medical definition of disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is any condition of the mind or body that makes it harder for a person to do major activities and participate in the world around them.

A disability can affect a person’s vision, hearing, movement, mental health, cognition (attention,perception,memory, language,learning, andreasoning), and/or social relationships.

A disability can be related to a variety of conditions, including:

  • Congenital conditions present at birth and that continue to affect function as a person ages
  • Gene and chromosome disorders
  • Conditions related to a serious injury, such as brain or spinal cord injury
  • Long-standing diseases, such as diabetes
  • Intermittent diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis
  • Progressive conditions like muscular dystrophy
  • Static conditions, such as limb loss

Many conditions that cause disability are invisible diseases—conditions with symptoms not visible to others.The physical symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, such as joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, and persistent fatigue, are invisible.

The impairments caused by rheumatoid arthritis can be both visible and invisible. Joint damage might be visible and evident in the hands and fingers, for example. But the effect on the quality of life cannot be seen and impacts many areas of a person’s life, including their work life, social life, and family life.

(Video) New Rules for Winning Rheumatoid Arthritis Social Security Disability Claims

How RA Affects Physical Function

Rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation throughout the body, which may eventually limit the joints, cause persistent swelling, and severe pain. Sometimes, RA can be severe enough to limit the ability to stand, walk, pull, lift, carry, reach, and sit for long periods.

It may even make it harder to perform self-care activities like bathing, dressing, and grooming. It may also affect your mobility—the ability to move about freely and easily. Functional impairment and disability in RA are major problems for people with the condition.

A populated-based group study reported in 2018 by the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases found the prevalence of patient-reported functional disability was 26% in people with RA in the initial study phase and 11% percent in people without the disease. The discrepancy between the two groups continued for almost 20 years of follow-up.

A newer study reported in 2019 in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings finds functional disability related to RA joint damage can occur one to two years before receiving a formal diagnosis. Studies like this one indicate how vital is early intervention in rheumatoid arthritis treatment.

It is important for healthcare providers to ask about and for people with RA to speak up about any difficulties they have with carrying out activities of daily living. The sooner your doctor has this information, the earlier intervention in the form of physical and occupational therapy and more aggressive medications can begin.

Who's on Your Rheumatoid Arthritis Healthcare Team

Unpredictable Nature of RA

One of the biggest challenges of living with RA is its unpredictable nature. Symptoms of the disease—especially joint pain and stiffness and chronic fatigue—can appear overnight, sometimes with no obvious triggers. These disease flare-ups make it harder to focus on career, family, a social life, and making future plans.

(Video) Rheumatoid Arthritis: Long-Term Disability Benefits

A 2017 report in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases finds daily and hour variations of pain, fatigue, and low mood are challenging for people living with RA. The report further notes rheumatoid arthritis is often associated with anxiety and mood fluctuations throughout a person’s day.

Depression and anxiety are often related to poorly controlled pain and fatigue, and the stress of living with an unpredictable disease. Talk to your healthcare provider if you find you are struggling to cope with the effects of RA. He or she can offer treatment options or a referral to a mental health professional who can help.

How Are You Coping With Exacerbations of Your RA?

Treatment Reduces Disability

Starting disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) as early as six months after a new diagnosis of RA can reduce the risk of disability. The push to treat RA early is important because once the damage has occurred, there is no way to reverse it. Studies have shown that even as early as diagnosis, people with RA may already have joint damage that can be seen on imaging.

A study reported in 2017 in the journal Arthritis & Rheumatology confirms the importance of early treatment in terms of long-term outcomes for people with RA. In this study, researchers followed 602 patients with RA for 20 years and collected data in years 1–3, 5, 7, 10, 15, and 20.

What the researchers found was the patients who did not treat with DMARDs until after six months of diagnosis had higher disability index scores. The researchers further noted those who received later treatment had higher radiological scores (joint damage) at follow-up in comparison to those who were treated early.

RA treatment will continue to advance as researchers work towards optimizing existing therapies and developing newer, more aggressive treatments. To learn more about reducing your risk for RA disability, talk to your healthcare provider.

(Video) Rheumatoid Arthritis Long Term Disability Claim Tips

What's Available for Treating Rheumatoid Arthritis?

RA and Your Job

RA can make it harder to do your job. This is due to several factors, including the fact that pain, fatigue, and medication side effects are unpredictable. One day, you wake up able to work and be productive, and the next you may struggle to keep up with tasks.

People with RA also struggle with daily symptoms that make it harder to give their best at their jobs. This includes brain fog, muscle spasms, and flu-like symptoms, such as malaise (generally feeling unwell). Pain, stiffness, and joint mobility can also be severe at times.

Depending on how rheumatoid arthritis affects you on the job, you may struggle with tasks that involve typing, sitting or standing for long periods, bending, lifting, driving, and writing. Some people with RA may have problems with their vocal cords, which further limits them on the job.

Accommodations and Medical Leave

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), there are certain job protections people with RA might have.

Under the ADA, you may be able to ask for reasonable workplace accommodations that make it easier to do your job. These accommodations need to be essential for performing the job in the same manner as a person without a disability.

This may include things like an ergonomic keyboard or desk chair, a sit-stand desk, extra breaks to stretch, talk-to-type software for your computer, or a modified work schedule. Of course, accommodations must be reasonable and should not cause undue hardship to the employer.

Under FMLA, people with RA and other chronic illnesses can take up to three months of unpaid leave per year if they are unable to work due to their health. This leave doesn’t have to been taken all at once and can be intermittent (at different times) as needed for short periods.

(Video) Rheumatoid Arthritis and Social Security Disability

For example, a person with rheumatoid arthritis may take intermittent leave for two or three days to manage a disease flare-up. Intermittent leave can also be used for medical appointments or appointments for treatments related to RA.

Your employer’s human relations department is the best position to explain how ADA accommodations work and your intermittent leave options under FMLA.

Disability Income

Some employees may offer temporary or permanent disability coverage to an employee who becomes disabled. The Social Security Administration’s Social Security Disability Insurance program is another option for someone with RA who cannot keep working due to disability.

Getting approved for Social Security disability benefits isn’t an easy process. Often, you have to have been not working for an extended period to be approved. Experts suggest hiring an attorney who specializes in Social Security disability benefits to help you with applying and who can help you to improve the chance of approval.

Social Security Disability Evaluation Process for Arthritis

A Word From Verywell

Having rheumatoid arthritis doesn’t mean you will eventually become disabled. Decades ago, there were huge numbers of people with poorly controlled and untreated RA who developed irreversible joint damage. But this is not the case anymore due to more effective medications and treatment strategies. In fact, the outlook for most people with RA has drastically improved.

If you are worried about becoming disabled or are struggling with activities like brushing your teeth, buttoning your shirt, or grasping objects, you need to let your treating healthcare provider know. Being open and honest with your doctor about pain, symptoms, side effects, and concerns are the best ways to prevent disability and keep your RA managed.

(Video) DocTalks: Dr. Janet Pope - What you Need to Know About Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Support and Resources

FAQs

What benefits am I entitled to if I have rheumatoid arthritis? ›

If you have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and it keeps you from participating in regular daily activities as well as prevents you from working, you may be eligible to receive Social Security disability benefits. Any one of any age can suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.

Are you classed as disabled if you have rheumatoid arthritis? ›

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, a qualifying disability, but it must be advanced RA to meet the SSA's eligibility requirements. That means that you your rheumatoid arthritis has to be so severe that you will be out of work for at least 12 months.

Can RA be considered a disability? ›

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers RA a disability if a person meets the following eligibility criteria: the person's condition is so severe that they will need to be out of work for 12 months or more. the person has gained enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits.

What percentage of people with RA become disabled? ›

Although RA is cumulative over time, 20% to 30% of patients become permanently work-disabled in the first 2 to 3 years of the disease [5]. Rapid remission in early disease appears to be a beneficial strategy against work disability in RA [6].

What should you not do if you have rheumatoid arthritis? ›

  1. Not Seeing a Rheumatologist. Your regular doctor may have diagnosed your RA. ...
  2. Too Much Couch Time. You need rest, just not too much. ...
  3. Canceling Doctor Appointments. When you feel good, do you stop seeing your doctor? ...
  4. Not Taking All Your Medications. ...
  5. Skipping Medication When You Feel Good. ...
  6. Overlooking Your Mood.
20 Jan 2022

Can I get a blue badge with rheumatoid arthritis? ›

You may be eligible for a blue badge, meaning you can park closer to where you need to go. If you claim benefits like Attendance Allowance or Personal Independence Payment, or you have difficulty getting around because of your arthritis, then this will support your application.

Can you get long-term disability for rheumatoid arthritis? ›

To qualify for long-term disability benefits for RA, you will need to prove that your RA prevents you from performing your job duties. This will require you to receive an official diagnosis, present extensive medical evidence, gather medical records, and explain your level of disability.

How hard is it to get disability for arthritis? ›

In order to qualify for disability benefits, your arthritis condition must be so severe that it prevents you from working, and it is expected to last for at least a year.

How do you get declared disabled? ›

'A person has a disability if:
  1. They have a physical or mental impairment, and.
  2. the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. '

How does rheumatoid arthritis affect the brain? ›

People with RA are more likely to have narrowed or blocked arteries in the brain – the result of systemic inflammation. This can cause problems with memory, thinking and reasoning.

What aggravates rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Overexertion, poor sleep, stress or an infection like the flu can all set off RA symptoms. With a predictable flare you'll temporarily feel worse, but your symptoms will resolve in time. Unpredictable flares have more uncertainty associated with them.

What jobs can you do with arthritis? ›

If you're diagnosed with arthritis, it might be a priority to find a job that provides you with the best work environment for that health condition.
...
10 jobs to consider if you have arthritis
  • Photo editor. ...
  • Administrative assistant. ...
  • Contractor. ...
  • Customer service representative. ...
  • Accountant. ...
  • Editor. ...
  • Virtual assistant. ...
  • Writer.

How fast can rheumatoid arthritis progress? ›

The typical case of rheumatoid arthritis begins insidiously, with the slow development of signs and symptoms over weeks to months. Often the patient first notices stiffness in one or more joints, usually accompanied by pain on movement and by tenderness in the joint.

Does rheumatoid arthritis cause weak legs? ›

Abstract. In addition to the primary symptoms arising from inflammatory processes in the joints, muscle weakness is commonly reported by patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Is arthritis a long term disability? ›

Arthritis is one of the most common conditions leading to long term disability.

What is the safest drug for rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Methotrexate is widely regarded as one of the safest of all arthritis drugs, though it carries some potential downsides. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are its most frequent side effects.

Does RA affect your teeth? ›

In addition to general health complications, RA can cause you to develop serious oral conditions, such as: Gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease that causes swollen and tender gums. Periodontitis, an inflammatory condition affecting the bone and tissue supporting the teeth.

Can RA cripple you? ›

Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can be a crippling condition that only gets worse with time. Left untreated, the disease almost always attacks at least five joints, and sometimes many more. Without treatment, the deformed joints may become increasingly difficult to move.

Can you get PIP If you have rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is one of the benefits most commonly claimed by people with RA. It is not means tested and covers two areas of life commonly affected by RA: daily living and mobility.

Is rheumatoid arthritis serious? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has many physical and social consequences and can lower quality of life. It can cause pain, disability, and premature death. Premature heart disease. People with RA are also at a higher risk for developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Can I claim anything if I have arthritis? ›

If I have arthritis, can I apply for disability benefits? If you have a disability – either physical or mental – you may qualify for financial help and benefits. Many people with arthritis struggle with mobility at times, and some struggle with their activities of daily living.

How do you know if your disability is going well? ›

Top Signs Your Disability Application Will Be Approved
  1. Substantial Evidence of a Medical Condition. ...
  2. Proof of a Physical or Mental Impairment. ...
  3. Substantial Work History. ...
  4. Maintaining Employment Is Not Possible. ...
  5. You Hired a Lawyer. ...
  6. Contact Us.
10 May 2022

Does arthritis make you tired? ›

Many people with arthritis say fatigue is one of their biggest challenges. Fatigue can be linked to many types of arthritis and related conditions. It's commonly a symptom of autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, reactive arthritis and lupus.

What autoimmune qualifies for disability? ›

Qualifying with an Autoimmune Disease

You will be eligible for disability benefits under this listing if you experience symptoms such as joint inflammation or deformity that prevents you from moving effectively; ankylosis (stiffening) of the spine, and/or severe fever, fatigue, or involuntary weight loss.

Is it easier to get disability after 55? ›

The SSA has made it much easier for older people to get disability benefits. For people at or over the age of 55 years, it's easier to qualify, because the requirements for disability are lower level for those close to an older age.

What are the 21 types of disabilities? ›

  • Locomotor Disability. Leprosy Cured Person. Cerebral Palsy. Dwarfism. Muscular Dystrophy. Acid Attack Victims.
  • Visual Impairment. Blindness. Low Vission.
  • Hearing Impairment. Deaf. Hard of Hearing.
  • Speech and Language Disability.
25 Apr 2022

What conditions count as a disability? ›

The law defines disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity (SGA) by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.

Does rheumatoid arthritis cause forgetfulness? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis and brain fog

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is best known for causing painful, swollen joints. But many people with RA say they also have to deal with symptoms like forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, and difficulty thinking clearly.

Does RA show up on brain MRI? ›

MRI can also detect signs of rheumatoid arthritis, but a doctor will also use a variety of other tests, such as blood tests. Doctors can distinguish between soft tissues and fluids using MRI. This means they can assess signs of rheumatoid arthritis, such as inflammation and the condition of the synovial membrane.

What painkillers work for arthritis? ›

NSAIDs are the most effective oral medicines for OA. They include ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) naproxen (Aleve) and diclofenac (Voltaren, others). All work by blocking enzymes that cause pain and swelling. The problem is that some of those enzymes also help blood to clot and protect the lining of your stomach.

What is a good breakfast for rheumatoid arthritis? ›

RA Fall Breakfast Pick: Quick or Overnight Oatmeal

Top oatmeal with fruit or a nut or seed butter. For extra anti-inflammatory benefits, mix in blueberries and powdered ginger, which gives the meal “a nice punch,” Foroutan says. Top with crumbled walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, for extra benefits.

What injections are given for rheumatoid arthritis? ›

The advent of a new class of drugs known as biologics has revolutionized the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These drugs, which include Cimzia, Enbrel, Humira, Kineret, Orencia, Remicade, Rituxan, and Simponi, must be given via self-injection or intravenous infusion in the doctor's office or hospital.

How do you stop a rheumatoid arthritis flare up? ›

Use cool packs.
  1. Use aids, for example, a stick if your knee is a problem.
  2. Wear the right shoes.
  3. Do gentle exercises, to help relieve the stiffness that makes the pain worse.
  4. Take your pain medication regularly and at the right dose.
  5. Use hot baths or showers to relieve early morning stiffness and pain.

Should I tell my employer I have rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Make sure you want to discuss it.

You don't have to tell your boss or co-workers about your condition. "If RA is not affecting your ability to work, there's really no reason to bring it up," White says. But if the disease is making it hard for you to do your job, it makes sense to talk about it.

Should I work with arthritis? ›

If you have arthritis or joint pain, your condition may pose some challenges which could make your working life harder. However, work is certainly feasible for most people with arthritis or a related condition.

What is the final stage of rheumatoid arthritis? ›

End-stage rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an advanced stage of disease in which there is severe joint damage and destruction in the absence of ongoing inflammation.

Can you work with rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Some days, a person living with RA may be able to work, exercise, and be productive. Other days, the same person may struggle with everyday tasks, lack of sleep, debilitating pain, disabling stiffness, joint swelling, or drug side effects such as nausea, headache, lightheadedness, and drowsiness.

Why does RA cause weight loss? ›

The same pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as TNF, that damage the joint tissue in people with RA can also lead to weight loss, muscle wasting and weakness.

Can rheumatoid arthritis make it hard to walk? ›

Advanced rheumatoid arthritis (RA) can impair your walking ability and cause difficulties in your day-to-day activities. It is a chronic inflammatory disease in which the body's immune system attacks the healthy joints and surrounding tissue, causing them to swell.

Does rheumatoid arthritis cause night sweats? ›

RA is an autoimmune condition that causes inflammation in the joints. It is the result of an overactive immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. Some people with RA report experiencing hot flushes. This includes night sweats and sudden, unexplained changes in temperature during the day.

Can rheumatoid arthritis cause stomach problems? ›

Studies show that people with RA are more likely to have stomach problems than the general population. The gastrointestinal (GI) tract has an upper and lower section. And RA can affect either one. Research shows that people with RA are about 70% more likely to develop a gastrointestinal problem than people without RA.

What type of arthritis is the most painful? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

Is RA considered a disability? ›

The Social Security Administration (SSA) considers RA a disability if a person meets the following eligibility criteria: the person's condition is so severe that they will need to be out of work for 12 months or more. the person has gained enough work credits to qualify for disability benefits.

Does arthritis in hands qualify for disability? ›

No matter where you develop arthritis, whether in your hands, feet, knees or back, if you have medical evidence to support your claim, you may be eligible for disability benefits. You will also need to meet financial requirements to qualify for disability benefits.

What benefits can I claim for rheumatoid arthritis UK? ›

if you're caring for someone with rheumatoid arthritis, you may be entitled to Carer's Allowance.
...
You're also entitled to free prescriptions if you're 60 or over, or if you receive either:
  • Income Support.
  • income-based Jobseeker's Allowance.
  • income-related Employment and Support Allowance.

Does rheumatoid arthritis qualify for PIP? ›

Personal Independence Payment (PIP) is one of the benefits most commonly claimed by people with RA. It is not means tested and covers two areas of life commonly affected by RA: daily living and mobility.

Can you claim any benefits for arthritis? ›

If I have arthritis, can I apply for disability benefits? If you have a disability – either physical or mental – you may qualify for financial help and benefits. Many people with arthritis struggle with mobility at times, and some struggle with their activities of daily living.

Is rheumatoid arthritis covered by the disability Act UK? ›

Although arthritis isn't one of the conditions automatically considered as a disability under the Acts, it's one of a number of conditions which might be treated as such depending on the effect it can have on your daily life.

How do you get declared disabled? ›

'A person has a disability if:
  1. They have a physical or mental impairment, and.
  2. the impairment has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on the person's ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. '

How do I apply for disability for arthritis? ›

To qualify, you must prove in your application that your arthritis is severe and debilitating enough to keep you from leading a normal life. This means including evidence of every aspect of your impairment, from doctor's notes to medical bills to tests, lab results, and surgery reports.

What type of arthritis qualify for disability? ›

You may automatically qualify for benefits if your arthritis is affecting your spine and compromising any nerve roots within the spinal cord. Arthritis should cause your spinal cord to experience widespread pain, limited flexibility, and inflammation that necessitates a change in positioning every few hours.

What are the 12 points for PIP? ›

You get the enhanced rate of daily living component if you score 12 points or more. If you score between eight and 11 points for your mobility needs, you get the standard rate of the mobility component. If you score 12 points or more, you get the enhanced rate of mobility component.

What are the 8 points for PIP? ›

Can dress and undress unaided.
  • 0 points. Needs to use an aid or appliance to be able to dress or undress.
  • 2 points. Needs either - ...
  • 2 points. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their lower body.
  • 2 points. Needs assistance to be able to dress or undress their upper body.
  • 4 points. ...
  • 8 points.

What type of arthritis is the most painful? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis can be one of the most painful types of arthritis; it affects joints as well as other surrounding tissues, including organs. This inflammatory, autoimmune disease attacks healthy cells by mistake, causing painful swelling in the joints, like hands, wrists and knees.

Can you work with rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Some days, a person living with RA may be able to work, exercise, and be productive. Other days, the same person may struggle with everyday tasks, lack of sleep, debilitating pain, disabling stiffness, joint swelling, or drug side effects such as nausea, headache, lightheadedness, and drowsiness.

Is rheumatoid arthritis serious? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has many physical and social consequences and can lower quality of life. It can cause pain, disability, and premature death. Premature heart disease. People with RA are also at a higher risk for developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

What is it like living with rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Rheumatoid arthritis causes joint pain and swelling, reduced mobility and physical weakness. General tiredness, trouble sleeping and exhaustion are other common symptoms. All of these symptoms can greatly affect your everyday life and overall wellbeing. Living with rheumatoid arthritis isn't always easy.

What is the safest drug for rheumatoid arthritis? ›

Methotrexate is widely regarded as one of the safest of all arthritis drugs, though it carries some potential downsides. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea and vomiting are its most frequent side effects.

How fast does rheumatoid arthritis progress? ›

Clinical History. The typical case of rheumatoid arthritis begins insidiously, with the slow development of signs and symptoms over weeks to months. Often the patient first notices stiffness in one or more joints, usually accompanied by pain on movement and by tenderness in the joint.

Can rheumatoid arthritis affect your feet? ›

People with RA can experience a combination of common foot problems, such as bunions and clawtoe. There can also be very painful bumps on the ball of the foot, creating calluses. The bumps develop when bones in the middle of the foot (midfoot) are pushed down from joint dislocations in the toes.

Videos

1. Prevalence of Functional Disability in Rheumatoid Arthritis
(Mayo Proceedings)
2. Rheumatoid arthritis - causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, pathology
(Osmosis)
3. Social Security Disability Benefits for Rheumatoid Arthritis
(SharonChristieLaw)
4. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) Signs & Symptoms (& Associated Complications)
(JJ Medicine)
5. Your Eligibility For Short And Long-Term Disability Benefits For Rheumatoid Arthritis
(Nancy Cavey)
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Social Security Disability
(Social Security Disability videos)

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