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Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis: Symptoms and treatment options

Rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis

The chances are you know someone who struggles with arthritis. I do, and so does my husband. Did you know there are different types of arthritis? Let’s talk about rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis today, from the differences to symptoms and treatments available.

Rheumatoid arthritis vs. osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common type consisting of the majority of arthritis diagnoses. Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disorder typically resulting from an acute injury to a joint in the body.

Meanwhile, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where your body believes that your tissue is an invasive substance and begins attacking the soft lining around the joint. While both conditions can be extremely painful to the unfortunate patient, overall symptoms, treatment options, and the joints affected can vary between the two conditions.


Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, affects the joints but can also manifest throughout the body, including the lungs, eyes, and heart. Some patients may feel muscle aches, a low fever, or extreme fatigue and exhaustion. As the disease progresses, the patient may notice swollen, tender lumps near the joints.

Unlike RA, osteoarthritis only affects the joints. Patients may feel tightness, aches, and grinding pain with movement in the joints affected. Some have been known to grow bone spurs, believed to be because of the unprotected stress put directly on the bone connections.

RA and osteoarthritis treatment options

Doctors tend to prescribe treatments for autoimmune diseases like RA designed to prevent the immune system from attacking itself. That may include medication like methotrexate.

If these types of drugs do not work, infusion treatment has been known to provide results. What is infusion treatment? It is a form of medical therapy that provides medication directly into the bloodstream via an intravenous needle. Because of its direct route into the body and the immediate diffusion of the medication throughout your body, many patients find this method to be the most effective at keeping symptoms and pain at bay.

Osteoarthritis is a continuously degenerative disease. The only known treatments for it are anti-inflammatory and steroid medications that hope to reduce pain and manage the inflammation around the affected joint. In severe cases, routine steroid injections into the surrounding tissue may help to ease discomfort and manage the damage inflicted on the joint.

Joints affected and prognosis

Rheumatoid arthritis usually affects small joints first, particularly the fingers and knuckle joints. The symptoms will manifest themselves on both sides of the body and can eventually spread to larger joints throughout the body, depending on the person. While typically associated with the elderly, people of any age can contract this disease.

Since osteoarthritis is usually the result of an overuse injury or a specific traumatic injury to a joint, it is not typically symmetrical within the body. It can manifest itself in the hand joints but is more commonly seen in larger joints like the knees, hips, and lower back. This condition develops slowly over years and is generally found in individuals over 50.

Either form of arthritis is not known to be fatal itself. Still, complications resulting from the symptoms of the disease, such as inactivity due to joint pain, are known to decrease life expectancy by about six years. It is critical for patients with arthritis to maintain mobility throughout their lives, whether through rounds of physical therapy or self-treatments like walks and swimming. Check out this guide for motivational tips to keep moving forward.

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