What’s the Difference Rheumatoid Arthritis and OsteoarthritisThere are over a hundred arthritic diseases, each with their own particular characteristics. Read on to learn the difference between the two most common arthritic diseases among Canadians— osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Is Osteoarthritis (OA) more common than rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
Of all the arthritic diseases, OA is the most common. It is estimated that over 5 million Canadians, 80% of them over the age of 75, are afflicted with the disease. OA affects men and women alike.
By comparison, RA affects only 1% of Canadians (approximately 300,000 people), primarily women (two women for every man).
What is the difference between Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)?
Causes and symptoms of Osteoarthritis (OA)
OA leads to the deterioration of cartilage and the bone it protects. Cartilage is a protective tissue that covers the ends of the bones. Normally, the body is able to repair cartilage damage, but in people with OA, this process is flawed.
Contrary to one long-held belief, OA is not caused by aging. Rather, it stems from abnormal prolonged pressure on a joint, for example due to repetitive use or obesity. Other factors can also come into play, including heredity, gender, age, or a job that requires repetitive movements.
Causes and symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
RA is an auto-immune disease, i.e., one in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the cartilage covering the joints, leading to inflammation and joint damage. Various factors increase the risk of RA, notably genetic predisposition, smoking, and certain infections that attack the joints. Over time, if the disease is left untreated, more and more joints will be affected.
The following table sets out the main differences between OA and RA.
|Joints most commonly affected||Knees, hips, hands, spine, or any joint subjected to sustained use||Ankles, elbows, fingers, shoulders, knees, hips, neck, feet, wrists|
|Symmetrical affliction||Not necessarily (e.g., may be left knee only)||Usually (e.g., both knees)|
|Disease progression||Limited to affected joints||Inflammation can affect other organs, including nerves, eyes, skin, lungs, and heart|
What is the treatment for Osteoarthritis (OA) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)?
OA and RA are both chronic diseases. While there is no cure for either, it is possible to take various steps, both pharmacological and other, to relieve symptoms and continue leading an active life.
Osteoarthritis (OA) treatment
OA treatment aims primarily to relieve pain and improve the person’s day-to-day ability to function. For the moment, there is no treatment that can improve the body’s ability to repair damaged tissue.
Rheumatoid arthritis treatment
RA treatment aims to maintain the person’s autonomy by slowing the progress of the disease and relieving pain.
What can my pharmacist do?
If you suffer from an arthritic disease, be it OA or RA, your pharmacist is a valuable ally who can help optimize your medication therapy and that improve your quality of life. If you have any questions about your treatment, ask your pharmacist.
The information contained herein is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide complete information on the subject matter or to replace the advice of a health professional. This information does not constitute medical consultation, diagnosis or opinion and should not be interpreted as such. Please consult your health care provider if you have any questions about your health, medications or treatment.