Suffer from Rheumatoid Arthritis and denied your long-term disability?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a painful inflammatory disease, which, in the absence of appropriate treatment can lead to joint destruction and disability. The rheumatic disease is progressive, and normally affects the articular and extra-articular joint structures resulting in pain, disability and mortality in people who are afflicted with the disease.

What causes rheumatoid arthritis?

Though no one knows the exact causes of rheumatoid arthritis, researchers have described it as the result of an autoimmune disorder that causes stiffness, pain, joint inflammation, and other common rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Researchers have continued to study the triggers of the disorder, its symptoms and the different factors that bring about rheumatoid arthritis. Autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis are suspected to be caused by several variables, which can largely be classified into four primary categories: genetics, hormonal changes, lifestyle choices, and environmental factors. While each factor can have adverse effects on your joints, sometimes a combination of all the factors is the culprit wreaking havoc on your joint.

Age: though most people are diagnosed between the ages of 40 and 60, adults of any age can be affected by rheumatoid arthritis. About three-quarters of people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis are first diagnosed in their working years.

Gender: The reason for this remains unknown but women are more likely to have rheumatoid arthritis than men. Hormones or changes or deficiencies in some hormones may be the reason.

Heredity: Researchers state that rheumatoid arthritis is not hereditary, but specific genetic markers (particularly HLA-DR4) are believed to be a contributing factor. People who have these markers are 5 times more likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis than people without them. People with these markers may also experience a more severe course of rheumatoid arthritis.

Bacterial or Viral Infection: Some scientists have reported that certain infections can activate the onset of rheumatoid arthritis and with the presence of other factors, people could develop rheumatoid arthritis. In essence, an infection could “switch on” the effect of the marker on the immune system.

Environmental Factors: There needs to be a trigger to activate the development of rheumatoid arthritis in susceptible individuals. Scientists have suggested several factors, but none has been identified to date.

Smoking: Heavy smoking over an extended number of years is a significant risk factor. A study conducted in Sweden discovered that smoking could be the cause of about 20% of rheumatoid arthritis cases. It was found to be even higher in people who had a certain protein in their blood. The risk remains high in heavy smokers, even 20 years after they stop.

Obesity: A study conducted at the Mayo Clinic showed that people with obesity have a 25% higher chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis than people with normal weight do.
 As earlier mentioned, there’s no single factor that causes rheumatoid arthritis; instead, a mix of factors is responsible for the deluge that prompts joint inflammation. It appears that rheumatoid arthritis is the result of a chain reaction.

What are some symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis will likely start slowly with recurrent minor symptoms that often takes place on both sides of the body and progressing over weeks or months. Its symptoms vary based on the individual and can differ from day to day. Bouts of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are known as flare-ups, while inactive periods – when symptoms are less noticeable – are referred to as remission.

Fatigue: Patients may feel more tired than normal, well before any other symptoms manifest. This is fatigue and it can set in weeks or months before the onset of other symptoms. It may reoccur day to day or week to week, as well as be sometimes accompanied by an overall feeling of illness or even depression.

Morning stiffness: This is usually an early indication of arthritis. Stiffness lasting for just a few minutes is typicallya symptom of a form of arthritis that can get worse without proper treatment, while stiffness lasting for several hours is normally a sign of inflammatory arthritis and is peculiar to rheumatoid arthritis. Any period of prolonged inactivity, such as sitting or napping, may also trigger stiffness.

Joint pain: Joint tenderness or pain during motion or inactivity typically follows joint stiffness, affecting both sides of the body equally. The most common places to feel pain at the initial stages of rheumatoid arthritis are the fingers and wrists, as well as shoulders, knees, feet, ankles.

Joint swelling: It is common to experience mild inflammation of the joints in the early stages, which makes the joints appear bigger than normal. This swelling is linked to the warmth of the joints. Flare-ups can last for a few days or up to a few weeks, with an expected increase in the pattern over time. Ensuing flare-ups may be experienced in the same joints or other joints.

Fever: A low-grade fever accompanied by other symptoms like joint pain and inflammation may be an early warning sign of rheumatoid arthritis. But if the fever is higher than 100°F (38°C), it’s probably a sign of some other illness or infection.

Numbness and tingling: When the tendon is inflamed, it creates pressure on your nerves, thereby causing tingling, numbness, or a burning feeling in the hands known as the carpal tunnel syndrome. During movement, you may notice a squeak or crackling noise produced by the joints of your hands or feet as damaged cartilage grinds against joints.

A decrease in range of motion: Inflammation in your joints can result in deformity or instability of tendons and ligaments. As rheumatoid arthritis progresses, you may be unable to bend or straighten some joints. You must engage in regular, gentle exercise, although your range of motion may also be limited by pain.

My disability adjuster thinks that rheumatoid arthrosis is the same as osteoarthritis – what’s the difference?

There is a significant difference.

Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease is a condition that is often mistaken for rheumatoid arthritis by patients and even physicians.

With OA your joint cartilage and lining, ligaments, and bone are all affected by deterioration. When the cartilage begins to break down due to injury or illness, the surrounding bones slowly start to rub together. The pain builds up over time and feels worse after joint use. In addition, osteoarthritis only affects the particular joint because the joint cartilage is worn away due to injury or over-use.

Rheumatoid arthritis is much different – it’s chronic inflammation of the joints. The degeneration caused by RA tends to affect the smaller joints in the body first, namely the joints in the fingers, hands, and feet. The damage then spreads to other major joints in the body. It’s early symptoms may appear as imprecise pain with slow appearance without classic symptoms of joint swelling or tenderness. These symptoms are usually quite non-specific, and can persist for a long time. A person may gradually experience morning joint stiffness and redness for more than 30 minutes, or arthritis type pain in the small joints of the hands or feet with ongoing swelling and tenderness.

The pain is normally symmetrical  – meaning in both sides of the body, whreas with osteroarthritis, the pain and disability affects the particular joint that is causing you pain.

How long does Rheumatoid Arthritis last?

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease – meaning that the disease will become more aggressive over time. Typically, the inflammation is will cause serious damage to the affected joints because of progressive joint swelling and/or persistent damage to the cartilage and bone. Also, the chronic inflammation that occurs with rheumatoid arthritis can cause major problems with your lungs, eyes and cardiovascular system (heart).  For example, if you suffer prolonged and chronic inflammation in the lungs, it can lead to pulmonary fibrosis, which makes breathing very hard – and negatively affect your overall quality of life.

Although many of the medications and therapies are designed to try and decreased underlying inflammation inside the joint, there is no known cure. Quite often people that suffer from rheumatoid arthritis can go through periods of long remissions (where symptoms disappear for a long while), have symptoms that come and go, while others suffer progressive and ongoing inflammation that never stops.

In all cases, however, inflammation wears away your joint cartilage, which causes your bones to become unstable and rub together. Eventually you might start to notice deformities as the bones move around within the context of the joint.  Pain, swelling, and loss of motion will progressively occur and joint replacement surgery might become an option.

Rheumatoid Arthritis can impact a person’s ability to work

If you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and suffer from severe progressive symptoms there is no doubt that your daily life and work life can be negatively affected.

It may be quite difficult for a person who chronically suffers from a reduced range of motion, fatigue, chronic pain, reduced mobility or overall reduced function to adhere to any type of regular work schedule.

The disease often will cause functional limitations for a person – such as the inability to walk, walk for long, sit for long, reach overhead, with your overall mobility, stooping, crouching, kneeling ect – which can lead to problems in most occupations, either physical or sedentary.  Things like typing on a keyboard or using a stapler can cause irritation, which over time, can lead to exhausting pain. A teacher may not be able to get up in the morning and make it to school for 8:00 a.m. if he or she has progressive morning stiffness and joint swelling/pain.

In addition – autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis requires constant treatment – even if symptoms aren’t constant. A person can experience flare ups which are inconsistent, debilitating and unpredictable.   One day, a person’s joints can feel pretty good, while the next, swelling and pain can cause a person to be unable to get out of bed. Work can, in time, become a very difficult.

Have you been denied or cut-off your long term disability benefits?

If you suffer rheumatoid arthritis and have been denied or cut-off long term disability benefits, you may have a claim against your long-term disability insurance carrier if you are unable to complete the substantial duties of your own employment.

Many claimants are also denied long-term disability benefits at the two year mark, otherwise called the change of definition or the COD. At this point in the claim, most policies change from what is called your “own occupation” to “any occupation” meaning that you must be disabled from doing the duties of any job for which you are reasonably trained by education, training and experience.

Whether you qualify for long-term disability benefits depends on the nature and severity of your work related restrictions.

Many times, insurance carriers will have their own internat or hired doctors to perform a so called “independant medical examination” which will more often than not find you are able to work at some type of occupation.

Whatever your situation of denial, it’s important that you contact a disability lawyer that can help you get yoru monthly benefits back on track.

Contact Hamilton’s Disability Lawyers for a Free, Confidential Consultation.

Our Hamilton disability lawyers work with the best experts in the field – from auto immune experts, to pain experts to orthopedic surgeons, vocational and psychiatric experts.  We understand that rheumatoid arthritis is a very serious autoimmune disease and your individual or group long-term disability insurance company should no doubt protect your financial future by providing you the disability benefits you deserve.

If you have been denied or cut-off your long-term disability benefits, call our Hamilton disability lawyers at 905-333-8888 or contact us online today. We can help with your individual or group long-term disability claim and help get your benefits back on track.

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