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RA in America – RA In The Workplace

When surveying RA patients, it’s not surprising that 94% indicate they are unable to do as much as they used to due to their RA. The impact of RA is seen across all aspects of patients’ lives, from their relationships with loved ones to their work and career.

The online RA in America 2014 survey gathered insights from 3,561 individuals diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. The study not only asked individuals about their symptoms and diagnosis journey, it also examined the impact on quality of life.

44% of those surveyed were employed full or part time and 21% retired early or have limited their work schedule by choice. Of those who were currently employed, 60% felt that their employers understand RA at least somewhat and 77% cited that RA impacts their ability to work.

Among those currently feeling the impact of RA at work, fatigue and pain have the greatest impact.

  • 92% are tired at work
  • 84% cite that pain affects their ability to work
  • Half find that physical limitations affect their ability to work
  • 1/4 are taking too many sick days

Of those who retired early or limited their work schedule by choice, pain and physical limitations were more prevalent than fatigue:

  • 85% found that pain affected their ability to work
  • 3/4 indicated that physical limitations affected their ability work
  • 68% were tired at work
  • 36% took too many sick days

Reflecting back, 17% of these individuals felt that both their employers and supervisors were not understanding of the challenges they faced in the workplace.

Whether it is going into a workday or time with family, RA patients face both physical and mental barriers. 29% of those surveyed are embarrassed about having RA, and almost half are constantly worried that they will disappoint others due to their RA.

When having flare-ups, 31% of individuals blame themselves and 1/4 feel that others also blame them.
A majority of RA patients feel that others don’t believe their RA symptoms are severe. In trying to educate those in their lives about RA and the impact, many of RA’s aspects are found to be difficult to explain to others. Fatigue being the most difficult (78%), followed by RA’s impact on daily living (72%) and pain (68%).

The impact of RA goes well beyond the obvious (or even not so obvious) symptoms. How has RA impacted your work or career? Please share in the comments below.


  • doreen2462
    2 months ago

    I have had to limit the number of hours I work. My job is stressful and involves continuous keyboarding. I think my co workers resent me because of my limited hours. I think my manager doesnt understand, and thinks I am trying to get out of work.

  • Kelly Dabel moderator
    2 months ago

    Thanks for sharing doreen2462. You are not alone here. Have you been able to implement any tools to help like voice recognition to alleviate some of the keyboarding? I know others here have found that to be helpful. Thinking of you and I hope that you feel supported in our community and by those close to you outside of work. Wishing you some relief ahead. Best, Kelly, Team Member

  • Sonia
    4 years ago

    These statistics appear to be in line with what I’m experiencing and the feedback I hear from other sufferers of RA. I have been diagnosed now 1 1/2 years; I lost about a year with a RA doc. who seemed to have taken a much less aggressive approach than I would have liked, but I had to trust him since I did not know anything about the diseases I was battling, and he took so long to come to a diagnosis-by that time, I was in so much pain and discomfort. What I didn’t understand and what I am also having trouble with making my family – and friends – understand is the seriousness of my disease. Not to put down or lessen the severity of cancer, but because we do not have outward signs (and many of us try our best to hide our pain – right?), so they think we are overplaying the pain or just using our disease as an excuse to ‘not work’ – really? I happen to fall in line with the stats. b/c my fatigue and flair ups are often. In the last month, I have torn my left shoulder (labral tear); I hurt my back which turned into bursitis in the left hip and I’m gaining weight; doing aquaPT but my should hurts like crazy; and, when I had xrays at the emergency room visit for my back/left hip – showed I have deteriorating bone – osteoarthritis. I can feel the nodules in the joints of bottom of my feel, my fingers and hands and wrists… also diagnosed with PMR (polymyalgia rheumatica)… there are so many other things wrong but I won’t go on… Sometimes I think these forums are for us to vent – especially when we don’t have any emotional and physical support while going through all this – no wonder people want to commit suicide — sometimes the pain becomes unbearable. I look forward to my new RA doc’s plan bc I am getting very tired and am having a hard time dealing with my conditions and being in a family and with a husband that trys, but really doesn’t understand or can’t do any better… Hope I didn’t drag everyone down… Lonely in Maryland

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