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Understanding The Difference Between Rheumatoid vs Osteoartritis

rheumatoid vs osteoarthritis

Chances are that you or someone you love is among the 54 million Americans living with the pain of arthritis.

According to the CDC, the incidence of arthritis is growing rapidly across the US. Based on findings from a 2017 study, it’s predicted that the number of people with arthritis will reach more than 78 million by the year 2040.

In addition, the CDC expects that those limited in usual activities due to arthritic conditions will rise to 34 million in the coming decades. This projection represents an increase of a whopping 52% of men and women who will face challenges with day-to-day activities due to their diagnoses.

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are two types of arthritis that affect patients. When comparing the two, you may notice some similarities, but each has its own unique characteristics.

Read on to learn how to distinguish rheumatoid vs osteoarthritis!

Comparing the Differences of Rheumatoid vs Osteoarthritis

If you’re lucky enough not to suffer from arthritis, you may be under the impression that all of these diagnoses are basically one in the same. But, these diagnoses can actually take many different forms. And each has its own specific signs, symptoms, and manifestations separating it from the rest.

There are over 100 different types of arthritis.

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis are two of the most common types of this condition.

Both fall under the broader arthritis umbrella. So you might have the assumption that they share similar diagnostic criteria too.

But there are many characteristics that apply specifically to each one. Several of these are easy to spot if you have a basic understanding of their differences.

What Defines the Different Types of Arthritis?

Arthritis is a general term that describes inflammation of the joints. But, the individual conditions and diseases associated with arthritis can impact sufferers in a variety of ways.

Autoimmune Disease

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases cause the body to attack itself.

In the case of RA, your body perceives synovial lining, which is the lining of your joints, as a threat. This causes it to attack this lining much like it would attack a virus or bacteria.

When your synovial lining is under attack, the fluid within your joints builds up. Fluid buildup can have several negative effects, including swelling, pain, and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis: The Effects, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Over time, RA can also break down your body’s cartilage, which can lead to painful consequences. There’s often the loss of mobility and it might even cause noticeable joint deformations. It’s also symmetrical so both sides of the body are usually affected similarly.

Rheumatoid arthritis is referred to as a systemic disease, meaning that it can involve the entire body, including organ systems.

Patients report wide variations in the ways that they are affected by RA. Some have moderate symptoms and experience long periods of remission. Mild sufferers might be able to obtain relief largely from self-management techniques.

Others can suffer from chronic, disabling symptoms. These patients often need surgical treatment, in addition to other treatments, such as diet, exercise, and medication.

Consequences can sometimes be so severe that patients are unable to work or perform their regular daily activities.

The Causes and Demographics of RA

The Arthritis Foundation reports 1.5 million people are living with RA in the United States.

There are three times as many women as men that have this debilitating type of arthritis. Its’ onset usually begins sometime between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.

While some patients report a family history of this disease, many do not. The exact cause of RA is still a mystery, but hormones and environmental risk factors are suspected to play a role.

What Is Osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is known as a degenerative disease, and it’s the most commonly diagnosed form of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is characterized by a breakdown of cushioning between the joints. It often causes cartilage and other tissues to wear away, which may result in the painful grinding of joints. As this disease progresses, pieces of bone can chip off and float around in the joint.

Who Does OA Effect?

Typical sufferers of OA tend to be over 60 years old. Half of all adults will develop related knee symptoms at some point during their lives. Risk factors include obesity, aging, overusing joints, and weakened thigh muscle.

Considerations for Treatment

Many OA patients find relief with lifestyle changes and mild medications. Some of the more severe cases require surgery to replace specific joints.

This disease tends to affect patients later in life. So some patients may have to rely on family members, personal caregivers, or the staff of an assisted living facility to help manage their symptoms. If this is the case, it’s important that caregivers are made aware of the patient’s diagnosis and understand how to treat OA.

Proper treatment can prevent the rapid progression of OA and could significantly improve the patient’s quality of life.

Helpful Tips for Managing Arthritis Pain

Understanding the differences between rheumatoid vs osteoarthritis is essential for providing optimal patient care.

While many aspects of the two differ, there are some tips that apply to both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis.

Patients should practice gentle stretching exercises and movement every day, if possible. These activities can help keep joints healthy, minimize muscular pain, and allow the patient to maintain greater mobility.

Also, patients should reduce the amount of processed foods that they include in their diets.

Adding foods that are rich in antioxidants can help reduce arthritic pain, and may offer additional health benefits as well.

Want more advice on how to maintain your health?

Check out this post for nutritional tips that benefit the body and the mind!

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