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Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

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 What is Arthritis?

The umbrella definition of arthritis is a condition causing pain and inflammation of joints. But not all arthritis is the same—there are more than 100 variants of the condition, some affecting the people in Gilbert and other Arizona communities—so treatment will vary depending on the particular type an individual has. Two of the most commonly known types are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis.

Osteoarthritis is caused joint cartilage breaking down, the result of wear and tear on the joint.  In other words, osteoarthritis is usually a side effect of getting older. Other factors besides age that can heighten the risk of developing osteoarthritis include direct joint injury, obesity, and genetics.

The condition typically begins in one particular joint and is accompanies by stiffness upon waking and pain in the joint after using it for general activities. Normally, the joint pain increases as the day wears on. Other symptoms include swelling, inflammation, bone spurs, and reduce range of motion.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to develop between the ages of 25 and 55. Symptoms include inflammation of the joints, swelling, stiffness, pain, restricted joint movement, exhaustion, and possibly issues with the heart, lungs, or kidneys. RA is an autoimmune disease so multiple joints are typically affected. For example, instead of one afflicted knee, both knees would be affected. Despite years of research, scientists still do not know the exact cause of the disease, although many suspect there is a genetic component.

Treatment of Arthritis

When treating osteoarthritis the objective is relieving pain and regaining joint functionality and range of motion. This can be done through prescriptions of anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics. Some patients may receive steroid injections to ease pain and reduce inflammation. Physical therapy can also be effective, specifically using strengthening exercises to help support the joint. Alternate therapies such as massage and acupuncture have been show to offer relief.

The primary treatment for rheumatoid arthritis is medication and in severe cases, possible arthroplasty, or joint replacement surgery.

Osteoarthritis is the more common form of the disease, afflicting more than 21 million people in the United States. The condition is found more in men before the age of 45 but in those over 55 it’s more common in women. Osteoarthritis affects all races equally. The American College of Rheumatology reports that seven out of ten people over 70 years show evidence of osteoarthritis.

A little over two million Americans are diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and three-fourths of them are women. Normally, RA develops between 30 and 60 years of age but there have been cases of young children being afflicted.

Health Concerns

Recent research published by the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that the individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at a statistically greater risk of developing blood clots in their veins within ten years after diagnosis.

While the study doesn’t definitively prove rheumatoid arthritis directly increases the odds of someone developing blood clots, Dr. Marie Holmqvist from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm asserts it provides “strong evidence that there is a connection between rheumatoid arthritis and blood clots, and that something related to rheumatoid arthritis—inflammation, treatment, other factors—is increasing the risk of blood clots.”

That said, the overall risk remains low so it is something RA patients should be aware of.

For information on arthritis treatment in Phoenix-Scottsdale, Arizona, please visit to schedule an appointment at one of the 15 valley-wide locations.


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