248-543-3566 28931 Woodward Ave, Berkley, MI 48072
248-543-3566 28931 Woodward Ave, Berkley, MI 48072

2 Types of Arthritis: How They Impact You and What You Need to Know

types of arthritis

Arthritis can be a devastating condition that affects everyday life. We often think of muscle aches and joint pain as generalized symptoms of arthritis, but this disease is much more complex in nature.

There are two distinct types of arthritis that often fail to be recognized as what they are, Rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis. By understanding the characteristics of each can lead you to a treatment plan that best works for you.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis and Where Does it Come From?

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder that can affect numerous organs. There is no cure for this type of arthritis, but it is known to go into remission for periods of time. The first indication of this disorder is inflammation of the joints. Early indications of Rheumatoid arthritis include:

  • Tender, swollen joints in fingers and toes
  • Stiff joints upon waking
  • Fatigue and fever

The joint pain does not come from wear and tear of the joints, but from the immune system attacking your body’s tissues. The lining of your joints become inflamed and eventually result in bone erosion and joint deformity.

There is no known cause from how Rheumatoid arthritis becomes in one person and not another except for a genetic component. This has been proven by similarities of:

  • Family history
  • Females more susceptible than men
  • Exposure to asbestos
  • Obesity

However, these findings do not determine if an internal malfunction occurs. It only shows a higher consistency in these categories.

It is almost certain that small joints will continue to grow worse. While moving to larger joints, such as knees, wrists, ankles, elbows, hips, and shoulders. Unfortunately, the spread of Rheumatoid arthritis does not stop with larger joints. About half of all patients have reported pain in areas that do not hold joints. These include:

  • Eyes
  • Skin
  • Kidneys
  • Salivery glands
  • Lungs

After joints and organs begin to ache, the tendons and ligaments that hold the joints together begin to weaken and stretch. Gradually, the joint lining loses its shape and alignment, causing joints that are out of line.

Treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Diet – Eating foods that are high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids can reduce inflammation to the joints. Salmon, tuna, herring, and mackerel are examples of fatty fish types. Food with antioxidants can also help to reduce inflammation. These include spinach, berries, dark chocolate, kidney beans, and pecans.
Anti-inflammatory Medications – Decreasing the inflammation can lessen the pain. Over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or NSAIDs can bring temporary relief. Your physician may suggest a prescription for pain or steroid injections directly into the joint.

Disease-Modifying Anti-rheumatic Drugs (DMARDs) – DMARDs weaken your immune system which reduces the attack of your body tissues. However, there are negatives in suppressing the immune system. You are at greater risk of contracting infections, pneumonia, and skin infections.

Janus-associated Kinase (JAK) Inhibitors – A new form of DMARD, it works by blocking cellular signals from inside cells. This stops components that cause inflammation from forming. This eliminates lowering the immune system but has other risks involved.

Assistive Devices – Splints and braces can be used to hold joints in a resting mode. Canes and crutches help to relieve pressure during flare-ups.

Exercise – Not all exercise is recommended for Rheumatoid Arthritis. Some types of Yoga are low-impact and are gentler in regaining strength and flexibility.

Surgery – It is possible to have joint replacement surgery with Rheumatoid Arthritis, but not likely. Because RA can attack anywhere in the body, replacing one joint does not make the immune deficiency go away.

What is Osteoarthritis and Where Does it Come From?

Osteoarthritis is a disease of the spine, hips, hands, knees, or feet. However, it is possible to get osteoarthritis anywhere that two bones connect. There are tell-tale signs that you are developing osteoarthritis in certain areas due to the following symptoms:

  • Reduced range of motion
  • Stiff joints upon waking
  • Weakened muscles
  • Creaking sounds in the joints

Osteoarthritis comes mainly from years of wear and tear on the cartilage of joints. When you are young, your joints are surrounded by tissue that is thick and forms a cushion around your joints. They are also covered with a slippery substance that provides flexibility when joints move. As we age, this covering begins to wear off and nothing is exposed but bare bone. Without the cushion, there is no insulation to protect the joints and nerve endings. Thus, the pain. OA is a degenerative condition, which means that it increases in severity over time.

Treatments for Osteoarthritis

There is no way to bring back that layer of cushioning, but there are ways to fight the pain in performing everyday activities.

Exercise – Work on building up the muscles in the areas that are most painful. By increasing the muscle mass surrounding the joints, less pressure is placed on the affected area. Ask your doctor for a list of exercises or go to a physical therapist.

Anti-inflammatory Medications – Decreasing the inflammation can lessen the pain. Over-the-counter drugs like acetaminophen or NSAIDs can bring temporary relief. Your physician may suggest a prescription for pain or steroid injections directly into the joint.

Losing Weight – Being overweight is a major stress on joints that are sore. Get on a program to lessen the amount of weight.

Use Ice or Heat – Ice is good for relieving swelling. Use after a strenuous day that leaves your joints throbbing in pain. Use heat before your daily activities to help loosen up your muscles and joints.

Surgery – Replacing a joint is the last alternative if you are unable to get the relief you need.


There are similar and different traits between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Joint pain is the largest similarity but this is where the likeness ends. RA is symmetrical, meaning that it can affect both sides of the body at the same time. Osteoarthritis tends to inflame single joints at a time and is not symmetrical.

The characteristics of RA can include low-grade fever, excessive fatigue, and muscle aches. OA seems limited to joints and not an overall reaction. A rheumatologist can distinguish the differences through X-rays, family history, and symptoms. Both Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis have four advancement stages of severity. Some stages are never reached.

RA can strike at any age or with either sex. This type of arthritis seems to run in families while OA is not as likely. OA is more likely to occur in older people that have used joints for a long time. Females are the prominent sex with both RA and OA, but men are not immune to either.

Neither Rheumatoid Arthritis nor Osteoarthritis has a permanent cure. Treatments are available to lessen the symptoms to live a normal life.

While there is only one type of OA, RA has different categories of infliction. Seropositive RA, Seronegative RA, Juvenile RA (juvenile idiopathic arthritis), and Over-lapping conditions. These may include:

  • Lupus
  • Lyme disease
  • Sciatica
  • Neuropathy
  • Fibromyalgia

There are many good treatment plans for Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. However, understanding the distinction between the two can save years of pain and confusion. Untreated RA can also lead to stroke or heart disease without treatment. If you feel that you may be suffering from either type of arthritis, mention your symptoms to your physician and discuss all of your options. Tests or X-rays may be ordered or a referral to a rheumatologist may be made. There is no reason to suffer from arthritis with the various treatments available.

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