January 30, 2018

Forget Phil―Feb. 2 Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day

We celebrate Groundhog Day every year on Feb. 2, but the prescient Punxsutawney Phil shares his day of recognition with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an illness affecting more than 1.5 million Americans.

Many people confuse RA with osteoarthritis, or OA. RA is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system attacks joint tissue, causing inflammation and join pain. Women are two or three times more likely than men to suffer from RA. With OA, the joint cartilage breaks down over time, causing similar symptoms, and men are the most likely victims.

Click here to learn more about the differences between RA and OA.

Several analogies can be drawn from Groundhog Day and RA Awareness Day, said Kelly Young, founder of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation.

“Compare [RA] onset to the moment the groundhog comes out of his hole to look for his shadow,” Young said. “It’s impossible to predict how aggressive the disease will be or whether treatments will be effective. The six weeks that the groundhog forecasts correspond to the short window of opportunity for people with rheumatoid disease to get early diagnosis and treatment.”

Specific RA symptoms include:

  • Tender, warm and swollen joints

  • Symmetrical pattern of affected joints

  • Joint inflammation often affecting the wrist and finger joints closest to the hand

  • Joint inflammation sometimes affecting other joints, including the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles and feet

  • Fatigue, occasional fevers and a loss of energy

  • Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after a long rest

It’s important to tell your treating physician about your pain and the affected joints so they can document the affects of the disease and its treatment. Fully documented medical records of your condition are critical when you apply for disability benefits―Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Click here for a free SSDI eligibility assessment to determine your likelihood of obtaining disability benefits for arthritis.

Allsup disability professionals have helped thousands of arthritis patients receive their disability benefits since its founding in 1984. Click here to read a story about how Allsup helped an Illinois woman suffering from rheumatoid arthritis apply for and obtain disability benefits.

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