Arthritis, including the inflammatory joint disorder rheumatoid arthritis, is a leading reason people become disabled in the United States. The medical condition affects about 50 million Americans. It can be completely disabling, and workers who develop arthritis may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. The good news is that many people with arthritis can find effective treatments if they are properly diagnosed.
There are two types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when a person's immune system begins to attack the joints. Osteoarthritis is degeneration of the joints as cartilage wears out. Rheumatoid arthritis has a genetic component that may be triggered by smoking or another environmental factor. Women are three times more likely to develop the disease than men.