There are over 100 different forms of arthritis, a condition that refers to joint inflammation. The two most common forms of arthritis are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Both involve inflammation, but they are not the same. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder, whereas osteoarthritis (OA) is a degenerative disorder. Here are the differences between these Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis.
Understanding Osteoarthritis (OA)
Osteoarthritis is an extremely common chronic joint condition. A joint is where two bones come together. Your hips, your knees and your wrists are all examples of joints in your body. Joint-connecting bones, at their ends, are covered in a very special protective tissue: cartilage. Unfortunately, an osteoarthritis diagnosis means this cartilage is degenerating and breaking down, causing these bones to painfully rub against each other.
While osteoarthritis is most common in older adults, it can affect people of all ages: over 30 million Americans are affected. Osteoarthritis is often caused by regular wear and tear over long periods of time but can also be the result of a past injury like torn cartilage, ligament injuries or a dislocated joint.
Risk factors like obesity, poorly formed joints, family history and even gender can make the condition more likely for some than others. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include pain, stiffness, inflammation and joints that are tender to the touch. OA is a progressive, chronic condition that may worsen over time. Doctors will stage osteoarthritis from stage 0 (normal, unaffected joint) to stage 4 (severe joint damage).
Treatment is all about pain management, and often includes medication, physical therapy, surgery, weight loss and at-home remedies and interventions. There’s also promising research that indicates klotho therapy may have the potential to prevent the onset of OA.
Understanding Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
While OA affects your cartilage and joints and is caused by wear-and-tear damage or previous traumatic injuries, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is caused by your immune system when it mistakenly attacks the healthy tissue in your own body. RA attacks the lining of your joints, leading to very painful inflammation that can cause joint deformities, bone erosion and other pains. Unlike osteoarthritis, symptoms are much more varied. While there may be joint stiffness and tender, swollen joints, people with RA may also feel exhausted, run fevers or lose their appetites.
According to the Mayo Clinic, RA usually affects small joints in your fingers and toes first. Then, as it progresses, larger joints are affected. It’s also important to note that rheumatoid arthritis can affect more than just joints: skin, eyes, lungs and more can all be affected by RA.
Risk factors for RA include being female, being middle-aged, smoking, obesity and family history. There are also environmental factors that could lead to RA, like exposure to asbestos or silica.
There is no cure for RA, but treatment for rheumatoid arthritis can be very effective. Many of the same medications used to treat OA pain are used to treat RA pain, like NSAIDs and steroids. But, very importantly, doctors also used disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs) to treat rheumatoid arthritis. When started just after diagnosis, DMARDs can slow the progression of RA significantly.
If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, getting educated about the condition can be empowering and allow you to take an active role in managing your pain. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and advocate for yourself or your family member.