You and Your Doctor Are Your Medical Team – October 2023

Osteoarthritis Vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis – both are a type of arthritis that causes painful stiff joints, after that similarity they have little in common. For the sake of article space, OA = Osteoarthritis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis = RA. 

OA usually occurs later in life, after years of mechanical wear and tear on the cartilage which lines and cushions your joints. It is a degenerative process that only affects the joints, mainly those that you use most – thumbs, hands, neck and spine, and the weight-bearing joints-(hips and knees. OA occurs when the cartilage that cushions the ends of bones in your joints gradually deteriorates. Cartilage is a firm, slippery tissue that enables nearly frictionless joint motion. OA causes changes in the bone and deterioration of the connective tissues that hold the joint together and that attach muscle to bone. It also causes inflammation of the joint lining. Osteoarthritis usually begins in an isolated joint, often in the knee, fingers, hands, spine and hips. While both sides may hurt, one side is more painful.

OA symptoms include: (a) Joint pain in affected joints – burning sensations to sharp pain, usually  the pain gets worse after a lot of activity, (b)Tenderness, loss of flexibility,  Stiffness in the morning- usually goes awaywith movement, (c) Muscle weakness around the affected joint -this is common for the knee joint, (d) Deformed joints – especially as arthritis worsens, (e) Reduced range of motion and loss of joint use – occurs as arthritis severity progresses, (f) Noises – grinding, “popping”,  cracking and creaking [“crepitus”], when you move the joint, (g) Decreased joint movement due to pain or joint damage.

Things you can do to help slow down the Osteoarthritis Progression: Maintain a healthy weight – excess weight puts additional pressure on weight-bearing joints, such as the hips and knees. Control blood sugar, Be as physically active as you can – but eliminate/limit high impact activities like: running, jumping, deep squatting and bending, limit stair climbing -if possible, hiking, prolonged standing in one place. A suggestion: try stretching  exercises especially when getting out of bed in the morning, which helps  arthritis by lubricating joints and enhancing and maintaining range-of-motion.

RA is an autoimmune disease, when your body’s immune system attacks your joints [it can also affect other organs besides your joints ] and it can occur at any age, even a young person. RA is especially common in the small joints of your hands and feet. It also affects shoulders, elbows, knees, and ankles.  RA tends to cause morning stiffness that can last an hour or more, which is one of the signs that separates it  from OA. RA is symmetrical, where a patient feels symptoms in the same spot on both sides of the body, often in the joints in the feet and hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms start quickly, and include: pain, stiffness and swelling, – most commonly in the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows and ankles. It causes inflammation – if not managed the inflammation can lead to permanent irreversible joint damage, bumps or nodules. In some cases they form over elbows and knuckles. , 

It is possible to have both OA and RA. A previous joint injury can lead to both diseases, but OA is more likely to develop as you age. Similarly, as people with RA age, they also are at risk of getting OA. Both involve inflammation in the joints, but RA causes much more inflammation.

When you see a doctor about having joint pain you should describe in as much detail as possible: what joint(s) hurt? did it suddenly happen or over  a period of time? when does it hurt? what makes the pain better or worse? and whether you have any other symptoms. These can offer clues about whether you have OA or RA. Your doctor may order a blood test and/or an X-Ray of the involved joints – OA and RA joints look differently on X-Ray. Depending on what has been determined, your doctor will develop a treatment plan to address your medical condition. Do not ignore body pain, it is telling you, you have a problem.  See your doctor – find out what is the cause.


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com


Jackie Kellum

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