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Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis, what Is The Difference Between ?


Arthritis is a broad term that encompasses over one hundred conditions that affect the joints.  The two most common forms of arthritis are Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.  Many of us are not exactly sure what the difference is between the two or how either form would affect our body.  Osteoarthritis is the most predominant form of arthritis, affecting over twenty million Americans.  Osteoarthritis generally refers to the “wear and tear” of the joints.  The cartilage breaks down, creating a bone-on-bone grinding of the joints.  It commonly affects the more mature adult; however it can be caused from previous injuries and excess weight gain.  Rheumatoid Arthritis affects about two million Americans.  It is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation and even deformity.  If you feel like you may have arthritis, even an inkling, you should speak to your doctor immediately.  If your doctor suspects that you may have arthritis, he should request a series of tests to determine what type of arthritis you have.  Each form of arthritis is unique and needs to be treated as such.  The following are examples of the signs and symptoms you may experience with Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Osteoarthritis is the deterioration of cartilage, which provides cushioning to the joint.  The loss of this cushion creates pain and discomfort.  Osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disease (as Rheumatoid Arthritis is).  It solely affects the joints, not the bodily organs, and it (usually) involves one joint at a time.  For example, one knee might have Osteoarthritis but the other knee might not.  You may experience pain upon standing or it may get worse throughout the day.  Osteoarthritis commonly affects the weight-bearing joints, such as the knees and hips.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease, meaning that the body can actually attack its own healthy tissues.  The immune system can trigger attacks on bodily organs, such as the lungs, heart, and even the skin.  The smaller joints of the body are usually affected, such as the fingers and toes.  Frequently, with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the joints are affected in pairs (bilaterally), meaning toes on both feet have arthritis at the same time, or both of the elbows are affected.  Whereas Osteoarthritis usually is seen in more mature adults, Rheumatoid Arthritis is universally seen in individuals of all ages.  Weight gain and injury can worsen Rheumatoid Arthritis but neither event is considered a cause. 

The common thread of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis is the feeling of pain.  Since the characteristics are similar, it is important to seek help if you suspect you may have any signs or symptoms.  You can read more on arthritis, and what it encompasses at
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