What is the difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is one of the most common connective tissue diseases and the most destructive to the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, progressive, systemic inflammatory autoimmune disease process that primarily affects the synovial joints. With this condition, autoantibodies (rheumatoid factors) are formed that attack healthy tissue, especially synovium, causing inflammation.
Inflammation occurs first in the synovial membrane, which lines the joint cavity. It then begins to involve the articular cartilage, joint capsule, and surrounding ligaments and tendons.
Permanent joint changes can be avoided if rheumatoid arthritis is diagnosed early. Early, aggressive treatments to suppress synovitis may cause a remission. Rheumatoid arthritis is a disease characterized by natural remissions and exacerbations. Medical treatment helps control the rheumatoid arthritis to decrease the intensity and number of exacerbations.
Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease; that is, areas of the body besides the synovial joints can be affected. Inflammatory responses similar to those occurring in synovial tissue may be seen in any organ or body system in which connective tissue is prevalent. The etiology of rheumatoid arthritis remains unclear, but research suggests a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
EARLY DISEASE MANIFESTATIONS
A person affected with rheumatoid arthritis typically complains of joint stiffness, swelling, pain, fatigue, and may complain of generalized weakness and morning stiffness. Anorexia and weight loss may occur early in the disease process. The upper extremity joints are often involved initially, typically the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) and metacarpophalangeal (MCP) joints of the hands. These joints may be slightly reddened, warm, stiff, swollen, and tender or painful. The typical pattern of joint involvement in RA is bilateral and symmetric, and the number of joints involved usually increases as the disease progresses. Hence rheumatoid arthritis must not be taken for granted.
LATE DISEASE MANIFESTATIONS
As the disease worsens, the joints become progressively inflamed and quite painful. Morning stiffness is present (also called as gel phenomenon), which lasts between 45 minutes and several hours after awakening. The joints feel soft and appear puffy due to synovitis and effusions (joint swelling with fluid, especially the knees).
Osteoarthritis is the most common arthritis and the second most common cause of disability among adults in the United States. It is also a common cause of disability worldwide. It is characterized by the progressive deterioration and loss of cartilage in one or more joints. Weight bearing joints (hips and knees), the vertebral column, and the hands are primarily affected because they are used most often. Most people have the primary form of the disease; secondary osteoarthritis can result from other musculoskeletal conditions or from trauma. Osteoarthritis can also be classified as nodal (with hand involvement) or non-nodal (without hand involvement). Now you know about rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis.