What is the Difference Between Arthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Arthritis is a common condition that causes joint pain and inflammation. But did you know arthritis isn't just one single condition? In fact, there are more than 100 types of arthritis out there.
In this article, we'll break down the difference between arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and cover everything you need to know about their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
What is arthritis?
Arthritis is a common condition that causes inflammation in one or more joints. It’s important to note that arthritis isn’t a single disease, as the term encompasses more than 100 types of arthritis and related conditions.1
About 58.5 million people live with the condition in the U.S., and it stands as the top cause of disability in the country.1,2
Arthritis affects people of all ages, races, and sexes. However, older people are more likely to develop certain types of arthritis than younger people.1
Osteoarthritis (OA), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), psoriatic arthritis (PsA), and gout are among the most common forms of arthritis.3
OA is the most common type of arthritis. It can damage any joint but mainly affects the joints of the hands, spine, hips, and knees.1
Individuals with this condition experience a weakening of their bones, deterioration of the connective tissue responsible for joint stability, and inflammation that harms the joint’s lining.1
OA is more common in older people. Symptoms include joint pain, stiffness, and limited mobility, significantly affecting one’s quality of life.1
RA is a type of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis. This means that in this condition, the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body.1
The causes of RA are not clear. Scientists believe something in the environment, such as a virus, stress, or smoking, could trigger inflammatory arthritis in genetically predisposed people.1
The gut microbiome may also play a role in immune-related inflammatory diseases like RA.1
Our gut contains trillions of microorganisms that help regulate immune cells and shape how the immune system functions in various diseases. Imbalances in this microbial community due to poor diet, antibiotic treatment, or other factors can make them lose the ability to regulate the immune response properly, contributing to RA and other auto-immune conditions.1
RA usually affects more than one joint at a time. Typically, the small joints in the wrists, hands, and feet are the first to be affected. Additionally, joint damage may occur on both sides of the body.4
The symptoms that may indicate someone may have RA include:4
- Joint pain, tenderness, swelling, or stiffness lasting six weeks or more.
- Morning stiffness that lasts more than 30 minutes.
- Low-grade fever
- Presence of small lumps under the skin over bony areas called rheumatoid nodules.
These symptoms can fluctuate and vary in intensity over time.4 RA can have negative impacts on the overall health of an individual. For example, painful joints can make it hard to exercise and cause weight gain.4
The inflammation associated with RA can also damage the lungs, blood vessels, heart, eyes, and skin.4
Other types of arthritis
In addition to osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), there are several other forms of arthritis, including:1
Psoriatic arthritis – an autoimmune form of arthritis that occurs with the skin condition psoriasis.
Gout – a form of arthritis that results from the build-up of uric acid crystals in the joints.
How is arthritis diagnosed?
If you're experiencing symptoms of arthritis, it's a good idea to see a doctor as soon as possible. Getting an accurate diagnosis without delay is important for starting treatment and avoiding complications.4
You'll likely be referred to a rheumatologist, a specialist who will carefully go through your medical history, perform a physical examination, and order necessary tests such as blood work and imaging scans to assess the condition of your joints. The goal is to determine the best course of action for your specific situation. 4
Treatment and prevention
The main goal of treating RA is to reduce inflammation, relieve symptoms, improve function, and reduce long-term complications.4
The doctor may prescribe medications that help prevent RA from getting worse. Depending on the case, physiotherapy or surgery may be recommended. 4
You can also take steps on your own to manage your condition and reduce pain and fatigue. Here are some measures you can consider: 4
- Eat a healthy diet and keep an ideal weight.
- Stay physically active.
- Avoid too much stress and stay positive.
- Try hot and cold treatments.
- Apply topical products such as creams, gels, or stick-on patches.
- Studies show that dietary supplements like curcumin/turmeric and omega-3 fish oil may help alleviate arthritis-related pain and stiffness. Daiwa Joint Health contains Univestin®, which may help provide rapid relief for joint discomfort and stiffness.
When we talk about arthritis, we're referring to a group of more than 100 different conditions, and rheumatoid arthritis is just one of them. While there is currently no cure for arthritis, it's essential to know that it is possible to alleviate symptoms and enhance your overall quality of life with the right treatment and healthy lifestyle habits.
- Arthritis Foundation. What is Arthritis? Available: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/about-arthritis/understanding-arthritis/what-is-arthritis. Access: 05/22/2023
- Arthritis. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/arthritis.htm#:~:text=In%20the%20United%20States%2C%2024,form%20of%20arthritis%20is%20osteoarthritis. Access: 05/22/2023
- Arthritis Foundation. How Arthritis Hurts. Available: https://www.arthritis.org/health-wellness/healthy-living/managing-pain/understanding-pain/sources-of-arthritis-pain. Access: 05/22/2023
- Arthritis Foundation. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments and More. Available: https://www.arthritis.org/diseases/rheumatoid-arthritis. Access: 05/22/2023