Both arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis refer to inflammation of the joint. Both of them cause pain and deformities to affected joints, however, they are two very different diseases. And to clarify further, there is a different entity that is more prevalent yet easily interchangeable with arthritis, that is osteoarthritis which is essentially a disease due to wear and tear of joints and not due to inflammation. Ergo, rheumatoid arthritis treatment differs from the treatment of arthritis, and the latter differs from osteoarthritis treatment.
Arthritis alone may refer to septic arthritis, and this is due to infections by bacteria to the joints. The bacteria may reach the joints through many routes, namely, by blood when the person has an active infection at other distant sites like the throat or lungs. Next is through a nearby bone infection that can easily spread to the joint. And also, local penetrating trauma to the joint may introduce an array of harmful bacteria that can cause septic arthritis. In terms of prevalence, children are more commonly affected.
Recognising this type of arthritis is fairly easy, the person will have severe throbbing pain at the joint, sensation of warmth and an obvious redness and swelling, accompanied by high-grade fever. And when such a condition is brought to the hospital, a sample from the joint fluid will be taken for analysis, and later, appropriate antibiotic therapy will be initiated to control the disease. And if there is an accumulation of pus found inside the joint, your doctor will drain it out to keep the joint clean for faster recovery.
Rheumatoid arthritis, in contrast, is long-term inflammation of the joints caused by the body’s own immunity or better known as autoimmunity. Women are three times more commonly affected. It requires a person with a genetic predilection combined with aggravating agents such as bacteria and viruses that can initiate the disease process. Other known precipitating factors are physical exertion, psychological stress and trauma.
Rheumatoid arthritis presents with a myriad of symptoms and it has a varying intensity shown by different individuals hence diagnosing these patients with rheumatoid arthritis can prove to be a challenge. Having these symptoms are highly suggestive of rheumatoid arthritis; morning stiffness, swelling joints in hands and wrists, symmetrical swelling, swelling of three or more joints. Other constitutional symptoms may include fever, loss of appetite and fatigability. If you have these symptoms, consult your doctor to confirm your diagnosis and start your treatment.
Rheumatoid arthritis, if left untreated, can lead to permanent and distinctive deformity of the joints. And due to its autoimmune nature, it can also affect your other organs such as the lungs, heart and eyes. Treatment is adjusted to the stage of the disease, primary drugs for earlier stages and surgical interventions for later stages to correct the established deformities.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease due to wear and tear of the joints over the years. It is primarily a disease of old age. However, younger people can also get osteoarthritis if the joints were already diseased or had a history of joint injury. The presentation of problems in osteoarthritis is different from rheumatoid arthritis in which, here, your main problems are pain and stiffness of the joints after a period of inactivity, swollen joints, and cracking noise during movements. Treatment for osteoarthritis includes drugs to control the pain, agents that protect and repair articular surfaces such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate. Also, supportive therapy to improve the patient’s overall state of health such as weight reduction, local heat application and exercise. And lastly, surgical treatment is reserved for patients with debilitating deformities.