One-Third of Arthritis Patients Also Experience Anxiety, Depression

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Allsup highlights importance of working closely with physicians for treatment and when applying for Social Security disability benefits

Impairments like arthritis can be complicated by other conditions, such as depression, so it’s important that patients fully explain all symptoms to their physicians.

A new national study finds that one-third of people with arthritis also experience anxiety or depression. This combination of physical and mental impairments points to the complexity of chronic illness and the importance of working closely with physicians to document these conditions, according to Allsup, which provides Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) representation and Medicare plan selection services.

The study, reported this spring by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, analyzed data gathered from nearly 1,800 U.S. adults in the Arthritis Conditions and Health Effects Survey. The CDC noted that about 50 million adults have arthritis or other related conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia or gout.

“Impairments like arthritis can be complicated by other conditions, such as depression, so it’s important that patients fully explain all symptoms to their physicians to ensure they receive every treatment option available to them,” said Ed Swierczek, Allsup senor claimant representative. This information also should be documented in the person’s medical record, which is important to the Social Security disability application process.

SSDI is a federally mandated disability insurance program overseen by the Social Security Administration (SSA), and it operates separately from the retirement and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. SSDI provides monthly benefits to individuals who are under full retirement age (age 65 or older) and who can no longer work because of a severe disability. Individuals and their employers pay for the federal insurance program through FICA taxes.

Social Security Disability & Arthritis
The most common types of the disease, osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), do not guarantee Social Security Disability Insurance benefits. The disability application and review process is complex and strictly regulated.

OA, a chronic joint disease of the hands, hips, knees and spine, is sometimes referred to as degenerative joint disease. Primarily affecting adults age 55 and older, it’s caused by the breakdown of cartilage in the joints. “Physical therapy and medications help control the pain of OA, but when the joints are damaged and nonfunctional, replacement surgery may be the only alternative,” Swierczek said.

RA affects the joints and is a form of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. “In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system—designed to protect health by attacking foreign cells such as viruses and bacteria—instead attacks the synovium, a thin membrane that lines the joints,” Swierczek explained. “As a result of the attack, fluid builds up in the joints, causing pain in the joints and inflammation throughout the body.”

When seeking SSDI, the SSA requires that the condition be severe enough to prevent work, Swierczek said. It’s important for an arthritis sufferer to clearly explain to the doctor at every appointment the limitations imposed by the arthritis as well as associated symptoms such as pain, stiffness, swelling, fatigue, and emotional concerns such as anxiety and depression, Swierczek said. For example, arthritis pain may be so severe that it interferes with an individual’s ability to sleep, causing fatigue.

“Medical records must reflect the actual problems the individual experiences from arthritis,” he said. “This not only helps the doctor better treat you, but also will help document any future disability claim if the condition reaches such severity as to stop you from working.

“Arthritis can be an unrelenting, insidious and progressive disease such as osteoarthritis, or it can be an acute process that becomes progressive, such as gouty arthritis or psoriatic arthritis,” he added.

Swierczek said the SSA primarily evaluates arthritis under two body systems—musculoskeletal and immune system—in its medical listings. “The SSA has a ruling that states a treating physician’s medical opinion is to be given controlling weight in the adjudication of a disability claim if the medical evidence supports this opinion,” he said. “This is why it’s crucial to provide comprehensive and up-to-date information to your doctor at every visit.”

To determine if you are eligible for Social Security disability benefits, call the Allsup Disability Evaluation Center at (800) 678-3276 for a free SSDI eligibility evaluation.

Allsup is a nationwide provider of Social Security disability, Medicare and Medicare Secondary Payer compliance services for individuals, employers and insurance carriers. Founded in 1984, Allsup employs more than 800 professionals who deliver specialized services supporting people with disabilities and seniors so they may lead lives that are as financially secure and as healthy as possible. The company is based in Belleville, Ill., near St. Louis. For more information, go to or visit Allsup on Facebook at

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