Think rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis (also commonly known as arthritis) are the same things? Spoiler alert! They aren’t. Arthritis is a general term used to classify over 100 joint diseases. The common symptoms among these joint diseases are joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and a loss in the range of motion, but you guessed it, there are also differences.
There are many types of arthritis, but the two most common are degenerative, like osteoarthritis, and inflammatory, like rheumatoid arthritis. Over 50 million adults and more than 300,000 children have been diagnosed with some form of arthritis. It is found more often in people as they get older and women, and if left untreated, some can lead to permanent joint damage.
How is RA Different?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a form of arthritis that falls under the inflammatory category and is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the body’s defense system is mistakenly attacking healthy tissues in the body and joints causing damaging inflammation. The disease starts in the smaller joints (fingers and toes) and then progresses to larger ones, like the knees. Affected joints are typically symmetrical and on both sides of the body. Non-joint areas of the body can be affected as well, such as the skin, eyes, lungs, and heart. Rheumatoid arthritis affects 1.5 million people in the United States and requires medical attention. Like other autoimmune disorders, flare-ups can occur.
Osteoarthritis (arthritis) is not an autoimmune disorder and is slowly occurs over the years. There’s little to no swelling in the joints since the body is not attacking itself, but pains and aches occur due to the tissue between your bones wearing down. Arthritis affects joints asymmetrically unlike RA. Also, for anyone worried about arthritis being caused by ‘cracking joints’- no need to worry, it’s a myth!
Not a Diagnosis
The startling truth is, “arthritis” is NOT a diagnosis, but a description of many joint disorders. If you are experiencing warm, swollen, and painful joints, it is time to see your doctor. Your primary care physician is a great place to start, although depending on which form of arthritis you are diagnosed with, you may need to see a specialist such as a rheumatologist. It is imperative to get help right away to avoid long term effects like permanent joint damage.
Since many of the symptoms of the different forms are shared, an accurate diagnosis may take a little time, so bring your patience. Once diagnosed, there are a variety of treatment options to treat the symptoms of arthritis. Medications for pain, slowing the progression of the disease, and surgery are a few of the treatment options that are on the market today. Arthritis.org has an excellent drug guide for arthritis to learn all of the options available and how they help treat whatever form of arthritis you have.
Clinical Trials Need YOU
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with RA or another form of arthritis, clinical trials may be an option. Clinical trials are paving the way to provide treatment options for those who have not been able to receive adequate treatment. This can be from a built-up resistance to current therapies, or an inability to receive current treatments due to specific medical reasons.
If you would like to learn more about the clinical trials, we are conducting looking into a new therapy to treat RA, click HERE. Qualified participants receive study-related care and medication, along with reimbursement for time and travel.