Rheumatoid arthritis is usually an inflammatory arthritis involving the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause deformity of various joints which can reduce peoples ability to use their legs, feet, knees, arms, hands, fingers and/or elbows, but it is not the only form of inflammatory arthritis that can be disabling. There are many other disorders that can also be disabling: Reiter’s syndrome; Ankylosing spondylitis; Psoriatic arthritis; Whipple’s disease; Behcet’s disease; Inflammatory bowel disease; Sjogren’s syndrome; gout; pseudogout; Scleroderma; and/or Lyme disease, just to name a few.
When I first started practicing in this field over 20 years ago, I had a very disabled client suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It impacted most of his joints and he could not button buttons, tie his shoes or even walk up his steps because of the amount of destruction that had occurred in his joints. He was one of the lucky individuals that was chosen to participate in one of the medical studies that was going on in the Pittsburgh area at the time and received injections of the drugs that are now currently being used to treat rheumatoid arthritis as well as some of the other inflammatory arthritis conditions. Although he did not recover from his arthritis, as it is degenerative, he was absolutely thrilled with the results. After participating in the study and receiving the “new” medications, he was able to walk up the four or five steps to his home and button his own shirts. I share that because I always encourage people to look into the studies that are being done in this area. We are lucky to live in one of the few areas where some of the best medical research in the country is being conducted right here. Many of my client’s have been fortunate enough to participate in the studies and many have received benefits from the research that is being conducted.
Unfortunately, I have also been seeing more cases of scleroderma in recent years than I have in my 24 years of practice. Scleroderma is also one of those conditions that is not easily diagnosed and can take years for confirmation of the diagnoses. Unfortunately this is a very disabling condition. This is also one of those areas where we are beginning to see different treatments being tried and research starting to evolve as the medicine advances. If I am aware of a study that is going on in the tri-state area, I will make my clients aware so that they can make a decision as to whether or not they would like to participate. Research is extremely important in the degenerative conditions and has proven valuable in prolonging the quality of life. Look how far we have come with people suffering from HIV infection!
Disclaimer: These pages are only observations from my point of view of some of the factors that are present in the diagnosis. I am not a doctor, I am a lawyer and I am only providing observations of various signs and symptoms that I have seen during my practice and/or the signs and symptoms that I evaluate when taking a client in front of an Administrative Law Judge.