When opening glasses becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or knee pain when climbing stairs, arthritis is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two most common forms of arthritis – osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis – can cause similar pain, but there are some major differences between them. But how do I know if I have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis is recognized as the most disabling or crippling type of arthritis. But what are the main differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?
Arthritis is a general term that describes a condition of joint inflammation.
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease or arthritis due to wear and tear. This is caused by damage to the joint cartilage, the cushion between the bones that make up the joint. Loss of cartilage can cause one bone to rub against another bone in the joint – a very painful condition. Usually, arthritis starts from one joint.
In 2015, statistics showed that more than 30 million people in the United States had osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis increases with age and is more common in people over 65 years.
Rheumatoid arthritis, however, is chronic inflammatory arthritis and is also classified as an autoimmune disease. The lining of the joint is mainly affected by rheumatoid arthritis, but can also affect organs throughout the body. Rheumatoid arthritis often involves many joints.
About 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, and up to one percent of the world’s population is affected by the condition. Women are two to three times more likely to suffer from this disease than men.
Usually, disease onset of rheumatoid arthritis takes place between the ages of 30 and 60, and most have no family history. If it happens to men, it usually happens later on.
How do I know if I have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis?
Osteoarthritis is the result of aging and risk factors such as injury, genetics, family history and repetitive joint stress. Joint cartilage cells appear to lose their mature nature and tend to become embryonic cells that turn cartilage into bone in fetal life.
Despite research on genetic and ethnic factors, no specific cause for Rheumatoid Arthritis is known. Because Rheumatoid Arthritis affects people from different backgrounds, it is difficult to identify specific causes.
Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis, about ten times more common than Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis affects about 27 million Americans, while rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.3 million people. Both of these diseases are more common in women. 75% of people with Rheumatoid Arthritis are women.
Age of onset
Rheumatoid Arthritis affects people between the ages of 30 and 60 but can start at any age, including childhood. Osteoarthritis usually starts later in life and is more common in older people.
Type of Stiffness
People often refer to vague muscle pain as stiffness, but when doctors talk about stiffness, it means that the joints don’t move as easily as they should. Stiffness can be felt even if there is no pain in the joint.
A little stiffness in the morning often occurs in osteoarthritis and often disappears after a few minutes of activity. Sometimes osteoarthritis sufferers also feel the same stiffness during the day after letting the joint rest for an hour or more. However, with rheumatoid arthritis, morning stiffness only improves after an hour or so. Sometimes persistent joint stiffness in the morning is the first symptom of rheumatoid arthritis.
The goal of treating Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis is to relieve pain, relieve symptoms, and stop further joint damage. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs help relieve pain and reduce swelling.
Osteoarthritis is sometimes treated by injecting steroids into the affected joint to relieve pain and restore function. Physiotherapy helps stabilize and strengthen joints. Heat, rest, weight loss, and massage also help relieve pain.
People with Rheumatoid Arthritis need stronger oral steroids to help relieve inflammation. They also use drugs that prevent joint damage and stop the progression of the disease.
Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can affect the hands. However, osteoarthritis often affects the joint closest to the fingertips. And while rheumatoid arthritis can occur in any joint, the most common targets are the hands, wrists, and feet.