Arthritis is one of the most common debilitating joint diseases, affecting more than 50 million people throughout the United States. Indeed, as the U.S. population ages, the incidence of arthritis is expected to increase. Arthritis comes in two primary forms, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
Osteoarthritis and Its Symptoms
Osteoarthritis (OA) is a disease of the joints that may be caused by aging joints, injured joints, or obesity. The disease, which is more prevalent in women, may affect the joints in the hand, wrist, neck, back, knee, hip, or a combination of any of the above. The symptoms of OA vary from individual to individual. There are some instances where people have X-rays that show obvious degeneration of the joints, yet they experience very little pain. In other cases, people experience excruciating pain. In still other cases, people experience pain temporarily and then go without pain for months or years before suffering from pain again.
OA of the spine and hand is typically associated with the formation of bony spurs. OA of the knees is typically associated with obesity, repeated injury, or joint surgery. OA of the fingers can cause the formation of hard bony enlargements at the small joints or middle joints of the finger.
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Its Symptoms
Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints and body tissue to cause inflammation of the lining of the joints. RA is a chronic disorder that may worsen over time. The inflammation can destroy bone and cartilage to cause deformity of the joints. Over time, joint deformity causes pain and loss of function. Symptoms of RA include pain, warmth, and swelling in the area of inflammation as well as joint stiffness, fatigue, and fever.
Some people experience symptoms immediately, while symptoms may take years to present themselves in others. The inflammation associated with RA is usually symmetrical, causing symptoms simultaneously on both sides of the body. In addition to joint pain, RA may cause nodules (lumps) to develop in internal organs and under the skin. RA may inflame and damage certain glands of the mouth and eyes, or cause a reduction of red and white blood cells. Inflammation may develop in the lining surrounding blood vessels, the lungs, and the heart. When RA affects children, it is known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (JRA). In addition to causing joint inflammation, JRA can stunt a child’s growth.
Differences Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
While both OA and RA are characterized by joint pain, OA is strictly limited to the joints and does not affect any other organs. RA, on the other hand, may affect the skin, eyes, lungs, heart, blood, and nerves. The cause of RA is not clearly defined. With RA, the immune system, which usually protects the body, has a tendency to attack healthy joints and tissue. Some experts suspect that genetics and environmental conditions may cause the immune system to react in this way, but research has yet to definitively prove this theory.
Get Help Today
If you are experiencing joint pain, or if you have been diagnosed with arthritis and you seek relief from the pain, contact an IBJI Rheumatologist to schedule an appointment for an examination.