How do I know if I have Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid arthritis?
Arthritis is an umbrella term used to describe inflammation of the joints. However, there are different kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Although RA and OA both affect your joints, they’re very different forms of the same broader condition. RA is an autoimmune condition, while OA is primarily a degenerative joint condition. RA can affect multiple joints in a subtype called polyarticular arthritis, and it tends to affect the body symmetrically. OA usually affects a few joints and typically occurs on only one side of the body. RA is an autoimmune disorder, which means your body attacks itself. If you have RA, your body interprets the soft lining around your joints as a threat, similar to a virus or bacteria, and attacks it.
This attack causes fluid to accumulate within the joint. In addition to the swelling, this fluid buildup also causes:
- inflammation around your joints
OA, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disorder. People with OA experience a breakdown of the cartilage that cushions their joints. The wearing down of cartilage causes the bones to rub against each other. This exposes small nerves, causing pain.
Many of the basics symptoms are the same, including:
- Painful, stiff joints
- Limited range of motion
- Warmth or tenderness in the affected area
- Increased intensity of symptoms first thing in the morning
Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when your immune system attacks the synovium, the lining of the membranes that surround your joints.
The resulting inflammation thickens the synovium, which can eventually destroy the cartilage and bone within the joint. The tendons and ligaments that hold the joint together weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint loses its shape and alignment.
RA and OA share several symptoms, including:
- Joint pain
- Stiffness in joints
- Swelling, which is more severe in RA
- Restricted mobility in affected joints
- Symptoms that are worse in the morning
The symptoms of RA may arise and get worse quickly, sometimes within a few weeks. However, the symptoms of OA appear more slowly, as the protective tissues in the joints gradually break down. However, OA stressors, such as going for a hike, may cause a sudden, severe swelling in the knee. Both OA and RA can affect any joint in the body. OA is most likely to affect the knees and the small finger and thumb joints. RA often occurs in the hands, fingers, elbows, knees, feet, and hips, and it usually occurs in the same joints on both sides of the body. The symptoms of RA usually affect the joints on both sides of the body.
OA is localized, as it only affects the joint and its surrounding tissues. For this reason, OA typically only affects one joint, while RA commonly affects multiple joints. A key difference between these forms of arthritis is that RA involves a range of systemic symptoms, which are symptoms that affect the entire body.
OA is not associated with systemic symptoms, but people with the condition can develop bone spurs or other bone abnormalities.
Tests and diagnosis
The primary goal in treating both OA and RA is to:
- Reduce pain
- Improve function
- Minimize damage to your joints
Doctors diagnose RA and OA by performing a physical examination, taking a medical history, and carrying out various diagnostic tests. Diagnosing these conditions can be challenging. This is because the symptoms often overlap, particularly in the early stages. Blood tests can help diagnose or rule out RA, as this condition leaves certain biomarkers in the blood, such as cyclic citrullinated peptide antibody and rheumatoid factor. They may also check for abnormal levels of the C-reactive protein antibody, which is a marker that indicates inflammation. Anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid medications are generally effective in both cases.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is associated with prominent, prolonged (>1 hour) morning stiffness and overtly swollen, warm joints. Radiographic findings include bone erosion (eg, periarticular osteopenia or marginal erosions of bone) rather than formation. Laboratory findings that further differentiate rheumatoid arthritis from osteoarthritis include Systemic inflammation (elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate [ESR] or C-reactive protein [CRP] level)
RA and OA are chronic conditions. There is currently no cure for them, but various treatments can help a person manage their symptoms, improve their quality of life, and slow down the progression of the condition. Treatment may involve using medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation.
Reducing inflammation can help alleviate pain and stiffness in the joints and improve their range of motion. Doctors may also recommend steroid-based medications to reduce inflammation. Healthcare professionals advise taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), often alongside NSAIDs or steroids and biologics, to treat RA. DMARDs aim to suppress the immune system and reduce its damage to tissues in the joints.
Treatments for both RA and OA will often also involve physical therapy. This helps improve a person’s mobility and keep joints flexible.
Following a healthful anti-inflammatory diet can also help. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent the need to place excess pressure on the joints. Avoid smoking cigarettes, particularly in RA.
Both conditions can become worse over time without appropriate treatment. The effects of OA and RA on a person’s daily life range from mild to severe. RA and OA can cause similar symptoms, but they have different causes and treatments. In many cases, OA is easier to treat than RA because it usually affects fewer joints and does not involve systemic symptoms.
With modern research and treatments, the outlook for people with RA has greatly improved. Doctors can usually prevent or slow down the progression of this disease with effective treatment. Dr Madhu Thumu has been in the field of Medicine and Orthopaedic Surgery for almost 12 years. He is a good recommended Doctor for arthritis treatment. Contact him for the best opportunity available.