Arthritis can be among the most debilitating of illnesses leading people to apply for disability. The two main types of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, are caused by different mechanisms but can have equally devastating impacts on the body, reducing one’s ability to work.

Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system attacks the synovium, a tissue lining the joints that maintains the lubricating fluid between joints. When the synovium gets inflamed, it releases chemicals that can damage the cartilage between joints.

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is caused by the “wear and tear” of cartilage. Thus, the result of both types of arthritis is damage to the cartilage, which normally cushions the joints.

It is obvious why arthritis can so severely impact your ability to continue working as you have in the past. Damaged joints mean painful knees, wrists and fingers, among other areas. With compromised joints, common work-place tasks like typing, sitting, answering the phone and picking up files are much more difficult than they used to be. For more physical work, arthritis can make it impossible to carry heavy loads and use tools or machinery. Moreover, the pain associated with arthritis can lead to more general symptoms, such as depression and fatigue.

Arthritis can develop over long periods of time. Many arthritis claimants have worked through pain for years before making it through a normal workweek simply becomes impossible. Often those with worsening arthritic pain have tried everything – heating pads, aquatic therapy, Eastern medicine – yet cannot get rid of it. It can be truly hard to accept that your body has lost the capacity to work as it did before.

What to do?

Obviously the first place to start is your doctor. Treatment for arthritis is improving and the medical community is constantly gaining more knowledge on treatment. Make sure you have a doctor who listens to your symptoms and is knowledgeable about the latest treatments for arthritis, including lifestyle changes. For example, recent studies associate a diet higher in plant foods (a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds) and lower in processed foods, saturated fat and sugar with lessening of arthritic symptoms.

Of course, arthritic pain can persist despite the best medical care and diet. In that case, it is time to seriously consider applying for long-term disability. Keep track of your medical appointments, and keep a journal of your day-to-day symptoms. Talk with your HR department about your company’s long-term insurance policy, and make sure you get a full copy.

We can help. If you have been struggling with arthritis and believe it is time to stop working and apply for long-term disability benefits, please call our long-term disability attorneys so we can discuss your policy and your options. We understand that this is a difficult decision, and that each person’s situation is unique. We can guide you through the course of action that is right for you.