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Inflammatory Arthritis and Social Security Disability

Inflammatory Arthritis – Condition and Symptoms

In very general terms, arthritis is the inflammation of the joints. Arthritis can be caused by any one of a number of factors such as injury, age, obesity, excessive wear, or infection. Some types of arthritis are caused by the body’s immune system attacking portions of the body, resulting in damage to some of the tissues in or near the joints; these are referred to as autoimmune diseases.

In order to understand how arthritis impacts the joints, first it is necessary to have an understanding of the anatomy of the joints. Located on the ends of the bones where one bone meets (or articulates) with another bone is a hard but slippery covering of cartilage; this provides a bit of cushioning for the bone surfaces at the points of contact. The joint is enclosed by the joint capsule. Lining the joint capsule is a membrane called the synovium, which secretes synovial fluid to lubricate the joint and to provide nourishment for the cartilage in the joint.

When a person has osteoarthritis, the cartilage within the joint becomes worn or damaged, causing the surfaces of the bones within the joint to grind together. As one might imagine, this causes irritation, swelling and pain. Osteoarthritis may be caused by an injury, by normal wear and tear, or by a number of other potential factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is the result of the body’s immune system attacking the synovium, resulting in swelling in the tissues surrounding the joint. As this swelling exerts pressure on the joint, it may become enlarged and possibly deformed, resulting in damage and eventually erosion of the cartilage within and around the joint. Rheumatoid arthritis typically impacts the smaller joints in the hands and the feet, but other forms of inflammatory arthritis can affect and damage the larger joints such as the hips, knees, elbows, shoulders, and others.

Common symptoms of arthritis may include:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Loss of motion
  • Swelling
  • Redness of the joints

Treatment for arthritis may vary, depending on the type. For inflammatory arthritis, pain-relievers and anti-inflammatory medications may provide some relief. For some patients, exercise and/or physical therapy may help to strengthen the muscles surrounding and supporting the affected joints. In more advanced cases, surgery may be necessary to replace the joint or, in the case of some smaller joints, fuse the joint together in order to immobilize it.

Filing for Social Security Disability with an Inflammatory Arthritis Diagnosis

Inflammatory Arthritis has been identified by the Social Security Administration (SSA) as one of the disabling conditions that can cause a person to qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. In the SSA’s impairment listing manual (more commonly called the “Blue Book”) the SSA provides detailed diagnostic criteria which are used to determine whether or not the disease has advanced enough to warrant disability status for the claimant. In the case of Inflammatory Arthritis, these criteria include:

  • Ongoing inflammation or deformity in one or more weight-bearing joints causing the inability to walk, or
  • Ongoing inflammation of one or more major peripheral joints in each arm, causing the ability to perform large and small movements effectively (this would include activities such as shopping, personal hygiene, self-care, etc.), or
  • Swelling or deformity of at least one major peripheral joint with:
    • Impact to 2 or more organs/systems with at least one impacted moderately, and
    • At least 2 of the systemic symptoms (fatigue, fever, weight loss or malaise), or
  • Ankylosing Spondylitis (Inflammation and fusing of the spinal joints) or other spondyloarthropathies (joint disease of the vertebral column), or
  • Ongoing or recurrent manifestations of IA, with at least 2 of the systemic symptoms, and impact to the claimant’s activities of daily living, social functioning, or cognitive functioning.

Depending on the type of arthritis involved, diagnosis may occur through lab tests of the blood, urine or joint fluid, through imaging techniques such as X-ray, CT, MRI, or ultrasound, or through arthroscopic surgery.

Your Inflammatory Arthritis Disability Case

If you have been impacted by Inflammatory Arthritis to the degree that you are no longer able to work for a living, you may very well be entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits. Because of the complexities involved with proving that you're truly disabled by this disease, it would be in your best interests to enlist the services of a Social Security Disability Attorney.

A brief look at the diagnostic criteria required in order to qualify for disability benefits shows what an involved, complicated process this can be. If it is not handled correctly, your case may be stuck in a seemingly endless appeal cycle while the bills continue to pile up. An experienced Social Security Disability lawyer knows how to obtain all of the proper documents and will work with you and with your medical team to make sure your case is resolved quickly, so you can be free to focus on your most important job, which is staying as healthy as possible.