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Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Pain in the joints of the hand from arthritis can be debilitating. The most common causes are inflammatory and non-inflammatory arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis is usually referred to as rheumatoid arthritis and non-inflammatory arthritis is known as osteoarthritis. There are important differences between the two.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is primarily caused by the normal wear and tear of the joints with age. It can also come from joint injuries or obesity, which puts extra stress on your joints. Osteoarthritis is a common condition among the elderly and people who are above 40-years old are at increased risk. Certain activities that involve repetitive motions can also lead to developing osteoarthritis by placing pressure on joints that may continue to wear down the cartilage.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown and is generally considered an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system suddenly attacks the healthy joints and its surrounding tissues. There is no clear reason as to what triggers the immune reaction. However, stress, genetics, hormonal influences, and infection are considered primary factors. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men and can develop anytime between ages 30 to 60.

The swelling of the joints in rheumatoid arthritis is almost always symmetrical, affecting both sides of the body. Swelling also usually occurs in tiny joints such as the wrists, knuckles, shoulders or elbows. In addition to joint pain and swelling, people with rheumatoid arthritis often experience fever, fatigue and loss of appetite and weight. 

Treatment

Treatment for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to reduce pain and swelling. There is no cure for either. Surgery is typically reserved for severe cases of deformities or disability.