How do Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis compare?

The commonly asked question: “Is it Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis?” is addressed in this article.

Arthritis means inflammation of the joint but that inflammation is expressed differently in the different arthritis variants.

Osteoarthritis in general is an age-related condition caused by wear and tear. It can appear earlier in life but typically presents in our later years.

Rheumatoid Arthritis is a systemic autoimmune condition that  invades the body at any age. This disease can spread within weeks or months.

Osteoarthritis in contrast is a slower progression, it is either one sided or unilateral. Rheumatoid Arthritis distinguishes itself as a symmetrical disease by affecting both hands/ wrists/ elbows or balls of feet.

The sensations differ; Osteoarthritis creates tenderness and aching whereas R.A causes painful and swollen joints. Morning stiffness lasts over an hour in R.A, but is less than an hour typically, in Osteoarthritis. Although the stiffness in Osteoarthritis will reappear either after activity or at night

Why the confusion of diagnosis?

At this stage, it seems clear the differences between Osteoartritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis. So, why is there a potential for confusion between the two diagnosis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis is sometimes mistaken for other illness’. These conditions cause pain to soft tissue/ joints or are autoimmune in action. This means the look alike diseases have to be eliminated first.

Another complication is that both diseases can affect a person at the same time.

The testing – is it Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis?

We have X-Rays, Ultrasound Scans and Magnetic Resonance Imaging. X-Rays do not reveal the detail the other tests do. They do show bone spurs, bone damage and cartilage loss.

Ultrascans / MRI are more revealing; it is possible to see soft tissue (tendons, synovial lining of joints, ligaments) inflammation. Osteoarthritis imaging shows reduction in space between the bones where the cartilage worn away. This means the bone is rubbing on bone. Rheumatoid Arthritis scans highlight erosive changes to bone. These scans highlight the subtle differences of soft tissue damage or bone erosion/rubbing.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Progression

Progression of Rheumatoid Arthritis can lead to conditions like Sjogren’s Syndrome (dry membranes), Vasculitis (inflamed blood vessels), Adult Onset Stills disease (another autoimmune condition caused by disruption of the immune system) and in rare cases, Felty’s (low white blood cell count, infections, and leg ulcers).

In either condition. awareness is key and if your family have these diseases, forewarned is forearmed. Please look after your health through a good diet, exercise and stress management. In other words, lead a balanced and healthy life. Another preventative action you can choose is to see a Homeopath early in your life. This will give your body the best chance of being maintaining at optimal levels. Homeopathy is not just about addressing symptoms, it also allows you to maintain your body at it’s best when used as part of your health management plan.