Rheumatoid Arthritis is a very common health problem that sends over 20 million people to their physician’s office each year. It’s important to realize that “arthritis” is divided into two primary types: osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease (DJD); the wear-and-tear form of arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
These two types are completely different, even though they have some similarities.
They both affect the joints and can be connected with joint stiffness, pain, inflammation and swelling.
However, their underlying causes are distinctly different.
What’s the Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Osteoarthritis usually occurs in older individuals, but can also be caused by repetitive stress or acute trauma.
Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, can affect you at any age, including children. Fortunately, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis (JRA) is relatively rare.
Understanding the differences between the two types of arthritis will help you distinguish which one you have.
Osteoarthritis – Degenerative joint disease usually affects the distal joints, or the joints at the end of your fingers and toes, not the middle ones. Additionally, it’s not symmetrical, so typically you may have it on just one joint, or on one hand or foot and not the other.
Rheumatoid arthritis – RA, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that causes your body to break itself down. Therefore, it tends to be bilateral and symmetrical, meaning it’s the same on both sides of your body. If you only have a specific joint affected on one side of your body it is far less likely to be RA.It also affects your middle joints, and is associated with joint deformities, especially your hands and fingers. It can be very crippling, and people do die from rheumatoid arthritis, so it’s not something to be treated lightly.
- Treatments that Work for Both Types of Arthritis
Some of the treatment methods available are similar for both, as both involve joint pain, swelling and inflammation. Hence the typical anti-inflammatory approaches such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) and analgesics, like Tylenol, can be used for either.
However, while these can relieve pain – and there’s a lot to be said for pain relief – it’s very important to understand that the regular, chronic use of these types of medications are associated with significant, and very serious, side effects such as kidney and/or liver damage. In the U.S. overuse of analgesics such as these are very common sources of kidney failure.
With respect to treatments, there are some commonalities even when using natural approaches.
- Omega-3 fats
- Nutritional typing
- Safe symptomatic approaches for pain