Osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis — we’re differentiating the two below.
In this article:
- The Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- What is Osteoarthritis?
- How Can Osteoarthritis Be Treated?
- What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
- How Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Treated?
Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis | 2 Types of Arthritis
The Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
People use arthritis as a general term for any condition causing discomfort in the joints throughout their body. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, with the most common versions diagnosed in patients being osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Understanding the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis helps people find the most suitable treatments for their condition.
What is Osteoarthritis?
Osteoarthritis causes a breakdown of cartilage tissue found between joints in the body. People with this condition begin experiencing osteoarthritis symptoms like swelling, aching, and stiffness as their bones start rubbing directly against each other.
Common OA Risk Factors:
- Family medical history of osteoarthritis
- Prior injuries to bones or joints
- Wear and tear on the joints from sports or other strenuous activities
The pain caused by osteoarthritis isn’t limited to the joints. Ligaments and other supporting structures also become affected. Osteoarthritis affects the following areas most commonly:
The first signs of osteoarthritis often appear as a gradual decrease in the mobility of the joints or the sound of rubbing or cracking. It can begin to affect your job and other daily activities. Most doctors will question patients about any history of illness and request x-rays to verify the degree of cartilage loss.
How Can Osteoarthritis Be Treated?
People with osteoarthritis can treat discomfort and inflammation with OTC medications like naproxen, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen. A doctor may recommend stronger methods if these don’t provide patients with any relief from the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Other OA Treatments:
- Corticosteroid injections
- Hyaluronic acid injections
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory gels
Physical therapy can strengthen other parts of the body and reduce the stress placed on afflicted joints. Individuals can also try other at-home remedies like applying heat to aching areas, getting enough rest, or even losing weight if it is felt that it can relieve some of the pressure on the joints.
A doctor may recommend surgery if cartilage degeneration threatens to leave the patient debilitated. Other options include minimally invasive surgery to repair damaged cartilage, surgical fusion of the bones, or even full joint replacement.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis differs from osteoarthritis in the sense that the former is an autoimmune condition. It happens because the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. The synovial lining within various joints becomes inflamed, causing redness and swelling, as a result.
Other RA Symptoms:
- Lumps under the skin (often the elbows or hands)
- Dry mouth and eyes
- Weight loss
- Losing range of motion
- A lack of appetite
The disease often attacks body parts in pairs. That means both hands, feet, or knees eventually become afflicted. They way it attacks the body symmetrically distinguishes it from other types of arthritis, which tend to occur independently in different joints.
The gradual progression of rheumatoid arthritis can cause different body parts to appear deformed and permanently lose functionality. Science hasn’t yet found the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis, but certain factors are often present with those living with the illness.
Possible Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes:
- A family history of rheumatoid arthritis
- The presence of certain hormones, particularly female ones
- Prior infection by a virus or bacteria
Rheumatoid arthritis can appear and disappear at random intervals, making it difficult for physicians to make a firm diagnosis. Early diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is critical to getting initial treatment and keeps the disease from causing a lot of joint damage. A family physician may refer their patient to a rheumatologist, who specializes in treating conditions affecting the muscles, bones, and joints.
People diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis often develop other conditions related to the disease, including:
- Bone loss
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Various infections
The effects of rheumatoid arthritis often occur in “flares.” That’s when the symptoms are at their worst, keeping people from going about their normal daily routine. Patients may then experience long periods of no soreness or tenderness before the next occurrence. It takes an extended period, even years, for the disease to progress through the body.
How Can Rheumatoid Arthritis Be Treated?
The treatment plan created by a physician depends heavily on the patient’s current physical condition. The goal is often to relieve their physical aches and keep the disease from causing deformity in the affected joints. Many of the same medications and lifestyle changes prescribed for treating osteoarthritis will also help provide relief for rheumatoid arthritis.
A physician may also recommend the use of biologic and non-biologic disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) for more severe rheumatoid arthritis cases. These drugs, however, carry certain risks and side effects like:
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Hair Loss
- Liver Damage
- Heightened risk of infection
Patients should learn everything they can about any drug treatment recommendations for their rheumatoid arthritis. They will want to have all information available to make an informed decision about proceeding with this type of treatment.
It’s important that individuals get appropriately diagnosed for the exact form of arthritis they’re experiencing. Knowing what they’re up against allows them and their medical team to make the right calls when it comes to creating treatment plans. The possibility of a patient living out their remaining years in a healthy fashion increases when they get treatment as early as possible.
What treatment options have you explored for arthritis? Let’s discuss them in the comments below!