Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic pain condition that can make life a challenge for those who suffer from the disease. RA is permanent disease that occurs because the body’s immune system doesn’t work in the way that it should. As we know, the immune system fights infections, but with RA, the immune system attacks the body thus leading to symptoms such as joint, stiffness and fatigue. Over time, joints can become damaged. Without proper treatment, damage can lead to disability. Fortunately, there are many targeted therapies out there and doctors are constantly learning new ways of treating RA so there is hope.
It amazes me how many people confuse RA with other forms of arthritis, such as Osteoarthritis and other forms related to infection. (I quite often get blue in the face trying to explain it.) Simply speaking, arthritis is inflammation of the joints, which can cause pain. When people talk about arthritis, they are talking about osteoarthritis, mostly because OA is more common. In most cases, OA begins after the age of 40 and develops over many years as joints begin to break down with age. The pain felt is a result of joint damage. This occurs more in joints that carry a lot of weight.
The difference in the damage caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis is that RA can pain in any joint of the body no matter how much weight is carried. Other diseases can be confused with RA because they have similar symptoms. That is why it is very important to speak with your doctor about your specific symptoms.
Some of these other diseases include:
Fibromyaloga: More common in women then men. Pain is widespread to the back, shoulders and neck. There is no inflammation in the joints. The absence of joint pain means that it is not RA. The cause is currently unknown.
Lupus: This disease also affects the immune system. It also causes inflammation and pain. In addition, lupus affects the organs. Many people with this condition have joint pain and skin rashes. People with RA do not have the rashes associated with lupus.
Gout: More common in men than women. High amounts of uric acid (waste produce in the body) form crystals in the joints. People with this condition cannot rid their bodies of the extra uric acid leading to inflammation and pain, most often in the big toe. Gout does not occur in hands as RA does.
I hope this post has given you an idea about the difference between Rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions that cause arthritic pain and inflammation. You can also click on the links to the right for more information about Rheumatoid arthritis and the other conditions mentioned.