Rheumatoid & Osteoarthritis

What is rheumatoid arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the lining of the joints as well as the blood vessels, eyes, lungs and heart. It results in pain and inflammation, and can eventually lead to bone erosion.

Rheumatoid arthritis tents to start with the smaller joints. Most people experience it first as mild pain and stiffness in the fingers and hands. The more common symptoms of this condition are as follows:

  • Joint stiffness that is worse upon waking and after periods of inactivity
  • Swelling and tenderness in the joints
  • Fatigue, fever and weight loss

As the disease progresses, the symptoms spread to the wrists, ankles, hips and other joints. About half of those with rheumatoid arthritis go on to experience pain in non-joint areas, such as the eyes, lungs, kidneys and skin.


What is osteoarthritis?

Osteoarthritis is a condition affecting millions of people globally, in which the cartilage in the joints wears down over time. The joints most commonly affected are the hips, spine, knees and hands, but it can affect any joint in the body.

Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis starts slowly and becomes worse over time. The more common symptoms include the following:

  • Pain and tenderness in the joint, particularly after activity
  • Stiffness and loss of flexibility that is worse upon awakening
  • A grating sensation when you use the joint, that may be accompanied by a grinding sound
  • The formation of bone spurs around the affected joints

There are two key differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis is a degenerative condition affecting the cartilage around the joints, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that affects the joint lining
  • Osteoarthritis is limited to the affected joints; rheumatoid arthritis sometimes affects non-joint structures


Am I at risk of getting rheumatoid or osteoarthritis?

The following factors may increase your risk of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis:

  • Demographics: Women are at higher risk of developing both conditions than men. In both men and women, the risk increases with age.
  • Family history: If a member of your family has had either condition, you may be higher risk.
  • Lifestyle and environmental factors: Exposure to substances like cigarette smoke and asbestos have been linked to rheumatoid arthritis, while occupations that create stress on the joints may lead to increased risk of osteoarthritis.
  • Obesity: People who are overweight are generally at higher risk of both conditions.
  • Injury: People who have suffered injuries to the joints may be at higher risk of developing osteoarthritis.

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