Major Differences Between Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is a broad term for a number of joint inflammatory conditions. It majorly includes osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, post-traumatic arthritis and juvenile arthritis.

Arthritis is fairly common in the U.S., which indicates the need for proper pain management techniques. From 2010 – 2012, almost 52.5 million adults indicated that they have some form of arthritis.

It is estimated that by 2040, an average of 78 million American adults will have doctor-diagnosed arthritis cases.

People often confuse the various forms of arthritis. Here, we compare two of the major forms; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Cause of disease

The major difference between these two conditions is the underlying cause of inflammation.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative form of disease. It is a result of cartilage breakdown. Since the function of cartilage is to cushion the joints, damage to a cartilage cause bones to rub against one another. Small nerves are also exposed in the process resulting in inflammation and pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, that is, your body attacks itself. The soft lining present around your joints is called synovium. This lining is thought to be non-self and thus attacked by your body’s immune system. This causes inflammation around the joints.

Disease characteristics

As an autoimmune disorder, rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any point in life. It usually has a hereditary component, so it runs in the family.

The condition usually starts with smaller joints and then progresses to larger ones, such as ankles, knees and shoulders. It’s symmetrical; you’ll feel pain on both sides of your body.

On the other hand, as a degenerative disorder, osteoarthritis develops in older age. Weight, joint deformities, diabetes and gout can influence the condition.

Osteoarthritis isn’t symmetrical; you’ll feel pain only in one or more degenerated joints. For instance, both your knee joints may be affected, but one might be more damaged and produce more pain than other. Usually knee, spine and hip joints are affected.

Symptoms

Both conditions present a few symptoms common to all arthritis types. This includes painful and stiff joint, warmth and tenderness in the knee region, limited movement, and heightened intensity of these symptoms in morning.

As a systemic disease, rheumatoid arthritis affects the whole body. Early signs can be low fever in children, muscle aches and fatigue. Advanced forms of disease can cause hard lumps which are noticeable under skin near the joint area.

Osteoarthritis often doesn’t produce any body-wide symptoms. It’s limited to pain and stiffness in the joints. Lumps may develop sometimes. However, these are different from the ones seen in rheumatoid arthritis. Excessive bone growth, often called bone spurs, may occur on the edges of affected joints.

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