Difference Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

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As the saying goes health is wealth. Any small ailment puts you on the back foot preventing you from performing your routine activities to the best of your ability. The consequences associated with bigger health issues increases manifold. One such debilitating health condition is arthritis.

More About Arthritis:

Arthritis is a condition which specifically affects the joints in the body and the tissues surrounding the joints. Joints are places where two bones meet and are present in knees, hips, neck, fingers and many more places in the body.

Arthritis is divided into two types- Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Though they are both variants of the same medical condition they have numerous differences amongst them.

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

  • The main difference between OA and RA is the cause of the disease. OA is disease which affects the joints of the hips, knees, lower back besides other small joints. The cartilage between the two bones of these joints thin down with repeated wear and tear causing the bones to rub against each other. RA is an autoimmune disease which is characterized by damage to the linings between the joints by the body’s own enzymes. Generally RA affects joints of the fingers, thumbs, wrists, elbows, shoulders and knees.
  • OA presents itself only at a later stage of life and is a degenerative disease getting worse with age. The onset of the disease is generally slow and spread out over the years. RA can affect a person at any point of life and the onset is very rapid within a few weeks or months. RA is more common in women while OA is common to both the genders.
  • The joints affected by RA become swollen and stiff with the stiffness experienced in the mornings lasting for over an hour. The joints affected with OA have negligible or no swelling with the morning stiffness lasting less than an hour. However, the joints become stiff by the end of the day or after physical activity.
  • The pattern in which the disease propagates within the body varies. With OA a single set of joints are affected and the disease first affects one side of the body spreading to the other side. In RA small and large joints of both the sides of the body are affected simultaneously.
  • The person is not affected by the systemic symptoms in the case of OA however, fatigue, fever, anemia, eye inflammation and weight loss are some of the systemic symptoms experienced by people affected by RA.
  • Diagnosis of OA is through x-rays. Any symptoms of muscle wasting, deformity and inflammation are also signs of OA. The inflammation is analyzed using reactive protein and ESR tests in the case of RA.
  • Treatment of OA can be done with pain killers and NSAIDs. Joint replacement can be considered for severely injured joints. RA can be treated with steroids, NSAIDs and corticosteroids.
  • Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis while RA affects only one tenth of the amount of people who have OA. In USA it is estimated that 20million people are affected with OA while the number of people affected by RA is comparatively less at 2.1million.

RA and OA are different types of arthritis and differ in the symptoms and treatment options. Though treatments do offer some relief from the symptoms care should be taken by the patient to avoid any severe activities that might harm the joints further in the case of OA while a patient affected with RA should be made aware of the systemic problems and the importance of healthy nutrition to tide over the condition.

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