What's the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?

difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis

There are several various forms of arthritis and related disorders. However, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) are the most frequent kinds.

OA is more prevalent than RA. Both include joint inflammation, although RA causes far more. Until recently, specialists assumed that inflammation was not a hallmark of OA. However, researchers are currently exploring its function in the illness – whether it is a cause or an outcome of the disease.

Some symptoms of OA and RA are similar, although RA can affect many joints and develop symmetrically on both sides of the body. OA commonly affects a few joints and develops from one side initially.

In addition, RA causes systemic inflammation, which can result in a fever and other flu-like symptoms. OA symptoms are typically localized to the afflicted joint or joints. Let’s look at the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, including causes, symptoms, and therapies.

Causes of arthritis and osteoarthritis

Joint pain and stiffness are symptoms of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. They are both types of arthritis, but their causes and treatments differ.

Protective tissues in joints keep the bones from rubbing against one another. For example, cartilage lies over the bones to allow for smooth joint movement. Arthritis wreaks havoc on this protecting tissue. However, the causes of joint degeneration differ between RA and OA.

RA is a type of autoimmune illness. It happens when a person’s immune system erroneously targets healthy joint tissues. As a result, it produces enzymes that damage the linings of the joints, causing swelling, pain, and stiffness. Other symptoms may appear throughout the body.

The protecting cartilage gradually wears away in OA, forcing the bones to grind together. This deterioration of the joints can be caused by repeated movements, such as those found in sports, which strain the joints. Bony growths, known as bone spurs, form on the joints, making them stiff, painful, and difficult to move. Although ailment can arise at any age, the risks of acquiring OA and RA grow.

Symptoms of arthritis and osteoarthritis

Some of the symptoms shared by RA and OA include:

  • Stiffness
  • Joint discomfort
  • Edema, which is worse in RA
  • Limited mobility in afflicted joints

The symptoms of both these conditions tend to be worse during the morning. Both can result in stiffness in the mornings or after resting. However, stiffness in those with OA generally improves within 30 minutes. It frequently lasts longer in people with RA.

RA symptoms can appear and worsen quickly, perhaps within a few weeks. OA symptoms appear gradually as the protecting tissues in the joints wear down. On the other hand, certain activities can induce an abrupt aggravation of OA symptoms. Going for a hike, for example, may trigger rapid, acute swelling in the knee.

Both disorders can affect a variety of joints across the body. OA is most common in the knees and the little finger and thumb joints. RA frequently manifests itself in the hands, elbows, fingers, knees, feet, and hips, and it usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Meanwhile, OA frequently develops solely on one side.

OA is confined, affecting only the joint and surrounding tissues. However, people with the disease may develop bone spurs or other bone deformities. For example, OA in the hands frequently results in tiny lumps around the ends of the hands and fingers.

Multiple joints are typically affected by RA, resulting in discomfort, edema, and stiffness. Nodules may also form around the afflicted joints. Because RA is systemic rather than localized, it can also result in the following:

  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Fever Fatigue
  • Beyond the joints, inflammation can occur in the eyes and lungs

How can arthritis and osteoarthritis be diagnosed?

A doctor will conduct a physical examination, obtain a medical history, and order several diagnostic tests when they suspect RA or OA, and want to know the causes of arthritis. Unfortunately, the symptoms of these illnesses frequently overlap, especially in the early stages, making a diagnosis difficult.

Blood tests for rheumatoid arthritis can assist in making the diagnosis or ruling it out. These examinations search the blood for many biomarkers, including cyclic citrullinated peptide antibodies and rheumatoid factor. The C-reactive protein antibody, a marker for inflammation, may also be checked by a specialist. To find the severity and location of RA or OA damage, a doctor may prescribe X-rays, ultrasound scans, MRI scans, or a combination of these.

Treating arthritis and osteoarthritis

Since RA and OA are chronic disorders, they never go away. Although there is no known cure, there are treatments that can help people manage their symptoms, enhance their quality of life, and stop the disease from getting worse. For example, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) may be used in treatment to reduce inflammation. This can increase the range of motion while easing pain and stiffness.

Doctors may also suggest medications containing steroids to treat inflammation. For instance, when it is crucial to reduce inflammation promptly, they might inject steroids straight into the damaged joints.

Physical therapy is commonly a part of the treatment programs for RA and OA. This keeps the joints flexible and improves mobility. A healthy diet and an effective exercise regimen can also be beneficial. Keeping a healthy weight helps lessen the strain on the joints. Additionally, it’s a good idea to stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, especially for those with RA.

Consult Enliven Ortho and Spinal Wellness Centre for expert care

Although the two disorders often have comparable symptoms, there is difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis etiology and therapies. Few joints are typically affected by OA, and the symptoms are typically localized to the joints. RA might result in more broad symptoms, and its course is more unpredictable. The primary goal of the Enliven Ortho and Spinal Wellness Centre is focused on the non-invasive treatment of neck, back and knee problems.

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