Although arthritis is often used as a blanket term to describe painful, stiff, and swollen joints, there are actually two distinct types and causes of arthritis. Being able to distinguish between the two is one key step in creating the most appropriate treatment and management plan for your condition. This outline provides helpful information about the differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as a few tips for calming inflammation and the joint pain, stiffness, and swelling that it can cause.
What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that develops when your body mistakenly attacks its own tissues. In this case, the immune system attacks and damages the lining of the joints, resulting in chronic inflammation and pain, stiffness, and swelling of the joints. Although these are the most common symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, this condition can also affect other areas of the body, including the eyes, skin, and organs (Mayo Clinic).
Researchers still aren’t quite sure what causes rheumatoid arthritis, but they do know that it is a genetic condition that primarily affects women. In fact, women are three times more likely than men to develop RA, according to the National Arthritis Foundation.
Aside from its underlying causes and prevalence in women, there are several other distinguishing characteristics of rheumatoid arthritis:
- RA can develop at any time in life, although it most commonly shows up between the ages of 30 and 60.
- Once RA symptoms begin, they typically progress fairly rapidly, over the course of weeks or months.
- Joint-related RA symptoms may be accompanied by feelings of general tiredness or illness.
Telltale Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Because rheumatoid arthritis can affect everyone differently, it can be difficult to distinguish its symptoms from those of osteoarthritis. Some of the most notable telltale signs of rheumatoid arthritis when it comes to your joints include:
- Joint pain and stiffness that is accompanied by significant swelling.
- Symptoms which typically occur symmetrically on the body, meaning that joint pain will be felt in both hands or both knees, for example.
- Joint stiffness in the morning when you wake up usually lasts more than one hour and is difficult to get rid of.
Studies have shown that when rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are addressed early, the risks of further complications and the need for corrective surgery significantly decrease (American College of Rheumatology). Thus, it’s a good idea to see a specialist for an accurate diagnosis and early treatment and management options to help you continue to live a full, active lifestyle, even with RA.
What Is Osteoarthritis?
Unlike rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune disorder and instead develops gradually with wear and tear of the joints. Of the two types, osteoarthritis is the most common, affecting more than 30 million adults in the United States alone (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). OA happens when the cartilage—a rubbery material that primarily functions as a cushion for your joints—begins to break down. This can cause the bones that make up a joint to rub together, resulting in pain and stiffness. Consequently, osteoarthritis is very common in athletes, especially those whose sports require them to repeat the same motions over and over again.
Another key difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis is that the latter most frequently affects the larger joints, like hips, knees, and back, while RA is more commonly seen in smaller joints such as the hands, fingers, and wrists.
Although osteoarthritis is not directly related to a genetic condition, genetics can be a risk factor for developing it. People who have a family history of OA may be more likely to develop it themselves. Other risks factors for osteoarthritis are:
- Age. Since osteoarthritis develops slowly over the course of several years, the older you are, the more likely it is that you could experience OA symptoms.
- Gender. As with rheumatoid arthritis, women are more likely than men to develop osteoarthritis.
- Obesity. Extra weight can put added stress on your joints, which may lead to osteoarthritis symptoms sooner in life.
- Lifestyle factors. If you play sports or have certain hobbies that require you to repeat the same movements of your body over and over, you could be at a greater risk for developing osteoarthritis. Additionally, people whose jobs require manual labor and repetitive motions can also be at a higher risk.
Signs of Osteoarthritis
Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis can also cause painful, stiff joints. However, OA is less likely to result in joint swelling than is RA. In addition, osteoarthritis rarely starts out with symmetrical symptoms, as is usually the case for rheumatoid arthritis. Instead, joint pain caused by OA typically starts in one particular joint on one side of the body. As it progresses, you may notice other areas of the body becoming painful as well, which can sometimes happen when we overcompensate for the original painful joint by putting more strain on the opposite joint.
Finally, joint stiffness in the morning usually goes away in under an hour when it is caused by osteoarthritis rather than rheumatoid arthritis. Stiffness caused by OA might show up again after long periods of strenuous activity, especially involving the affected joint(s).
A Look at Treating Underlying Inflammation
Understanding the differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and determining an accurate diagnosis, is important for several reasons. First, because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease, it can also affect other parts of the body, so seeking the right treatment options for these secondary complications is a must if you experience them. Secondly, knowing more about the underlying causes of your joint pain can help you to find the most effective methods for managing your symptoms and preventing flare-ups of joint pain and stiffness.
While there are many differences between RA and OA, however, these two types of arthritis do have one thing in common—underlying inflammation is at the root of the joint pain and stiffness that you’re experiencing in either case.
So what does this mean for arthritis treatment? You’ll still want an accurate diagnosis to determine which type of arthritis you have. If you’re experiencing secondary symptoms of RA, such as fatigue, skin problems, or more serious organ problems, you’ll need to work with your doctor to reduce complications and better manage the disease as a whole. On top of this, you might also be interested in finding the safest and gentlest way to help alleviate signs of joint pain and stiffness.
One such method is to use a non-steroidal topical cream like Enduras Recovery Cream that has been specifically designed to help reduce underlying chronic inflammation so that you can get back to enjoying your normal daily activities.
Enduras contains a blend of naturally-derived essential micronutrients, plus an anti-inflammatory ingredient, but leaves out those harsh, potentially unsafe ingredients found in so many other products of its kind. These include things like steroids, parabens, petrolatum, and fragrance. The result is a gentle formula that has already helped many men and women struggling with joint pain and stiffness. You can learn more about what real Enduras customers have to say about their experiences with this product here.
Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two distinct types of arthritis that have one major commonality: chronic inflammation. Unfortunately, many of the current treatment options to manage joint pain are only aimed at masking the superficial symptoms and do nothing to help calm the inflammation that’s causing those symptoms. This is where Enduras Recovery Cream really stands out from the crowd.
Of course, working with your doctor to properly diagnose and assess your joint pain can be an important first step when developing a treatment plan. But if you’re not happy with your pharmaceutical options for living with joint pain, you owe it to yourself to give Endures a try.