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Arthritis FAQ: When do functional limitations become disabling?

If you are struggling with arthritic pain, you've got lots of company.

Nearly 23 percent of adults report doctor-diagnosed arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Nearly 44 percent of those people have activity limitations due to arthritis.

When do those limitations become so severe as to be disabling? In this post, we will use a Q & A format to address that question.

What is arthritis and what are the main types?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the body's joints. It typically involves joint pain and stiffness and gets worse with age.

The two most common types of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. With osteoarthritis, there is a breakdown of the cartilage that provides a covering for the ends of bones where they join together.

Rheumatoid arthritis affects the lining of the joints and is considered to be caused by an autoimmune disorder.

Can arthritis be worsened when combined with other conditions?

Yes. And the reverse is true as well. For example, if someone has severe back pain, the problem can be compounded by arthritis in the knees.

Arthritis can also affect mental conditions, such as depression. If someone has terrible arthritis that severely limits the ability to engage in the activities of life, this can be contributing cause of depression.

How is disability defined regarding arthritis?

Keep in mind that the term "disability" has difference definitions, depending on the context. Its meaning in the context of Social Security disability insurance is not synonymous with its meaning in the context of private disability insurance.

Indeed, even with private disability insurance, the definition may depend on the policy type. There are important differences, more specifically, between "own-occupation" and "any-occupation" policies.

If you have private disability insurance, and are concerned that your employer or insurer is treating you unfairly, it is important to discuss this with an attorney knowledgeable in this area of the law.

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