Arthritis is said to be the leading cause of disease-related disability. The disease has a global prevalence of 350 million cases. It’s important to understand that the term arthritis doesn’t refer to any single disease. It instead describes a constellation of over 100 known diseases. These diseases all affect joints and are characterized by joint degeneration and damage. In this article, we will talk about osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. These are the two most common types of arthritis worldwide. They are often confused for one another being that they share a wide array of symptoms. We’ll do our best to allay this confusion.
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is estimated to affect millions of people worldwide. Osteoarthritis results from mechanical defects in joints. In patients with osteoarthritis, the cartilage found in between joints degenerates over time. This leaves the two articulating bones with no cushioning in between them. They thus grind against each other and there is pain and tenderness at the affected joints. Commonly affected joints in osteoarthritis include knee, hip, and vertebral joints.
Unlike osteoarthritis which is largely mechanical in origin, rheumatoid arthritis is attributed to an autoimmune cause. In rheumatoid arthritis, the body’s immune system attacks joints causing inflammation and thickening of the capsule which surrounds joints. There can be bone erosion and joint deformity over time. It isn’t known exactly what causes rheumatoid arthritis but it is believed to result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. The disorder commonly affects the finger and wrist joints. It can also sometimes progress from the joints to affect other body organs such as the heart and skin.
Because of a large degree of similarity in terms of symptoms, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are often confused for each other. There are however symptoms which are uniquely specific to each of these two conditions. It is important to understand for instance that osteoarthritis is unilateral whereas rheumatoid arthritis is usually bilateral. This simply means that osteoarthritis affects only one side of the body while rheumatoid arthritis affects both sides. You are likely to find both the right and left wrists affected in rheumatoid arthritis.
Another distinguishing feature is the degree of joint stiffness. Although both conditions are affected by joint swelling and stiffness, the stiffness tends to be more prolonged and worse in rheumatoid arthritis. In osteoarthritis, joint stiffness after waking up in the morning tends to last for only some minutes. The same may last for up to two or more hours in rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is also often characterized by more warmth and swelling at affected joints.
Given that they are both chronic conditions, treatment for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis mainly focuses on relieving symptoms and helping patients live their lives with less pain and discomfort. Treatment is an on-going process where patients are regularly given medication.
In osteoarthritis, the main aim of treatment is to reduce inflammation and pain. Patients are treated with anti-inflammatory medications as well as analgesics for pain relief. Aside from the medications, osteoarthritis patients also undergo regular physical therapy. This helps to improve their range of motion alongside alleviating pain and swelling. If symptoms aggravate, assistive devices like sticks or walkers can also provide some relief. Though usually unnecessary, surgery can be effective in more severe cases.
Have you been grappling with arthritis pain? Would you like lasting relief from all that pain and discomfort? While looking for treatment for your arthritis may seem overwhelming, a knowledgeable orthopedic specialist can be helpful to guide to manage your condition.
With our years of experience in orthopedic medicine, Bone & Joints 360 can offer you a compassionate, knowledgeable approach at every step of your arthritis treatment. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation with Dr. Santosh Shetty one of the best orthopedic specialists in Mumbai.