Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis: What’s the Difference?

Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Arthritis is a generalized term common to describe joint disease. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a type of arthritis in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the joints, resulting in chronic inflammation. Many often ask, “What is the difference between Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis?” We will help answer this question.

What is the Difference Between Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis?

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the joint linings (synovium) that produce fluid that lubricates the joints.

Signs and Symptoms of RA

RA causes signs and symptoms in and around the joints of the following:

  • inflammation
  • swelling
  • pain
  • rash (in some cases)

Without proper treatment, damage to cartilage and bone can occur over time. This can result in permanent joint deformity.

What Parts of the Body Does RA Affect?

RA generally affects the joints in the following parts of the body:

  • hands
  • feet
  • wrists
  • elbows
  • knees
  • ankles

This autoimmune disease can also affect the cardiovascular or respiratory systems.

Treatment of RA

Diagnosis of RA requires a physical exam and history, a blood test and sometimes x-rays.  Treatment of RA typically involves a combination of medication, rest, joint-strengthening exercises and joint protection. The following types of medications are common for RA:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • corticosteroids
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • subsets of DMARDs (biologics and JAK inhibitors)

What is Arthritis?

Arthritis is actually not a disease, but rather a general description of about 100 diseases that affect the joints. It is the most common cause of disability in the U.S. and has been diagnosed in over 50 million adults and 300,000 children. Although, arthritis can affect anybody, it is most common in older women.

Types of Arthritis

The following are the different types of arthritis:

  • Osteoarthritis or degenerative arthritis is the most common type of this condition. As the cartilage between the joints erodes, the bones rub against one another and cause stiffness, pain and swelling.
  • Inflammatory arthritis occurs as a result of an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks the joints. Psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two of the more common types of inflammatory arthritis.
  • Gout or metabolic arthritis occurs as a result of abnormally high levels of uric acid. Some people either produce too much uric acid and/or their body can’t process it quickly enough. Either way, the uric acid accumulates and creates needle-shaped crystals between the joints, which cause gout attacks or acute episodes of sever pain.

Signs and Symptoms of Arthritis

Symptoms of of arthritis include the following:

  • pain and limited function of joints
  • joint inflammation
  • joint stiffness
  • tenderness of the inflamed joint
  • loss of cartilage with limitation of motion from the joint damage (common when large joints such as the knee are involved)
  • fever
  • gland swelling (swollen lymph nodes)
  • weight loss
  • fatigue

What Parts of the Body Does Arthritis Affect?

Arthritis typically affects the following parts of the body:

  • hands
  • feet
  • ankles
  • hips
  • knees
  • shoulders

Treatment of Arthritis

Treatment of arthritis is dependent on the type of arthritis present. Diagnosis of arthritis involves examining for swelling or deformity in the patient’s joints by moving them back and forth to evaluate their malformed, distressed joints. Typically, treatment includes a combination of physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs and pain medications. The following types of medications are common for arthritis:

  • acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs)
  • subsets of DMARDs (biologics and JAK inhibitors)
  • corticosteroids

These are just the basics for “What is the difference between Arthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis?” If you have or believe you may have rheumatoid arthritis or arthritis, visit the Arthritis & Osteoporosis Clinic of Brazos Valley to receive appropriate treatment. Contact us with the link below for more information!

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