The main differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (full sample)

The main differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (full sample)

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Illnesses that affect joints are known as rheumatic diseases and two of the most common are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In this article we explore the main differences between the two conditions and how they can affect patients.




The range of illnesses that affect the limbs and joints are known as rheumatic diseases, and there are more than one hundred different types. Among these conditions, two of the most common are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Despite both being rheumatic diseases, they differ substantially from each other.

Rheumatoid arthritis

The specific cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known, although scientists believe it is caused when the immune system of the patient malfunctions and attacks their own body; this is known as an autoimmune disease. These attacks most often affect an individual's hands and feet and unlike most other forms of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis tends to attack both sides of the body at once, in a symmetrical fashion.

Osteoarthritis

This illness most often affects older people and is a degenerative joint condition. It occurs because the cartilage that cushions and protects  the bones in the joints wears out, allowing the bones to rub together. This can cause substantial discomfort for the patient.

Other differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis include:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis could occur at any time in a person's life, whereas older people are the main age group that suffers from osteoarthritis.

  • Osteoarthritis slowly worsens over the course of several years, whereas rheumatoid arthritis can strike swiftly, over weeks and months.

  • Osteoarthritis makes joints tender with little swelling while rheumatoid arthritis aggravates joints, making them swollen, stiff and painful.

  • Rheumatoid arthritis can cause a person to feel generally unwell, whereas the symptoms of osteoarthritis are limited to the affected joints.

  • The cause of osteoarthritis is normally a joint wearing out due to repetitive stress and use of joints, or as the result of an accident or injury. It is believed that rheumatoid arthritis is generally caused by genetic predisposition and triggering events, although no specific cause has been found.

  • Osteoarthritis affects just over 20 million people in the United States, with rheumatoid arthritis affecting just over 2 million people.

In closing

If you believe that you may be suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, it is vital that you see a doctor as soon as possible to get diagnosed and begin treatment. Identifying the disease early and starting on a medical plan is the most effective way to preserve your quality of life.

Content originally written by Paul Maplesden, a freelance writer, and edited by me.



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