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Reading Between the Lines

2012 June 7

By Tai of Allsup

Invisible DisabilitiesMany people think disabilities, and they think wheelchair. They think hearing aid, cane, or evident, physical impairments that you can see.

Here at Allsup, we know that when it comes to disabilities, you have to look beyond what’s visible to begin to get the full story.

Hundreds of thousands of people have invisible disabilities. And, as the Invisible Disabilities Association (IDA) points out, just because you cannot see a person’s disability doesn’t mean it’s not real.

An invisible disability is undetectable to the human eye. It might be excruciating pain, chronic fatigue, dizziness, weakness, a mental disorder, or a hearing and vision impairment. These types of disability also can mean hardship for people whose family or friends don’t believe in the severity of their disability because they simply can’t see it. This can mean further frustration and isolation.

Making the Invisible Visible

Although invisible, these disabilities impact people’s daily lives just as much as those we can see. The IDA’s mission is to increase awareness and understanding for those living with often debilitating, but not immediately evident, conditions.

One invisible disability affecting millions is rheumatoid arthritis. It’s an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and pain in the joints. While arthritis typically affects those age 60 and up, rheumatoid arthritis can affect younger people as well.

The pain and inflammation of arthritis can be debilitating. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports data showing it significantly affects people’s ability to work. For example, people with rheumatoid arthritis are more likely to change occupations, reduce their work hours, lose their jobs, retire early and be unable to find a job.

For proper treatment, it’s important to recognize the signs of rheumatoid arthritis early on. Symptoms include:

  • Swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints.
  • Thickening of the joint’s lining.
  • Deterioration of motor skills.

According to the Arthritis Foundation, an estimated 1.3 million people have rheumatoid arthritis in theUnited States. That’s 1.3 million people walking among us, going about their lives, often coping silently with an invisible disease.

Remember, just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. As the IDA shares, disabilities are not always an open book. Share your thoughts here.

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