We use the word arthritis to describe pain, stiffness and inflammation of the various joints throughout our body. There are actually two different types of arthritis, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While they share similar characteristics, they each have their own set of symptoms and causes. They also require different treatments to manage those symptoms.
The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is caused by the wear and tear of the joint itself and surrounding cartilage. In most cases, symptoms of osteoarthritis begin to gradually show over the years and increases with age. Those who suffer from osteoarthritis report aching and tenderness, with little to no swelling.
In most cases, the symptoms of osteoarthritis begin on one side of the body and then slowly spread to the other side. Patients notice discomfort and pain in the large, weight-bearing joints such as the knees and hips as well as in the finger joints and thumbs. Stiffness occurs in the joints in the morning, but typically lasts for less than an hour. It often returns after periods of activity and towards the end of the day.
For patients with osteoarthritis, the pain can become intense and tends to get worse as the patient gets older. However, the pain is typically limited to joints only, unlike the whole-body symptoms experienced by those with Rheumatoid arthritis.
Only about a tenth of those with osteoarthritis have rheumatoid arthritis. What differentiates the two forms of arthritis is the cause. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused when the body’s own immune system overreacts and attacks the joints of the body. This makes it less of a joint issue and more of an autoimmune disease.
Unlike osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis can strike at any age and is much quicker to spread. Not only do patients feel pain and stiffness in their joints, but they also experience swelling as well. The symptoms affect joints such as wrists, elbows, and hands on both sides of the body at the same time.
Other symptoms like frequent fatigue, low-grade fevers, and muscle aches are also present. Some patients will notice hard lumps underneath the skin near joints. These lumps can be very painful and make normal movement and use of the joint nearly impossible. Additionally, stiffness in the morning will last much longer than just an hour.
Just as the symptoms and causes of both of these forms of arthritis are different, so are the treatments involved to help manage the symptoms. With both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, the overall goal is to help reduce pain and inflammation. Some treatments work better for certain symptoms than others. Your doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for your situation.
Arrowhead Health Centers understands that each form of arthritis requires a unique approach when it comes to treatment. We will work with you to develop a specialized treatment plan that is tailored to your needs and symptoms. Call us at 623-334-4000, option 9 today to set up your initial consultation.