Do you feel pain and stiffness in the joints? Have you also noticed that the area is red and swollen? Many people confuse the terms arthritis and osteoarthritis and use them incorrectly or believe that it is the same pathology. But although it is true that both ailments have some features in common, the reality is that they are two different diseases.For this reason, in this article we will explain the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis, what you can do to prevent them and how to mitigate the pain if you already suffer from them.
Arthritis and osteoarthritis: similarities
Both arthritis and osteoarthritis are conditions that are related to the wear and tear of the musculoskeletal system (made up of bones, muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments) and with the alteration of the immune system. Both conditions affect one or more joints, are more prevalent in women than in men and have similar symptoms, such as pain, stiffness and swelling of some joints.
So far, the similarities since, as we have commented previously, they are different pathologies. If we look at both terms, we will see that they share the root (artr/o, from the Greek articulation), but the suffixes are different (-itis means inflammation or infection, while -osis means degeneration or wear), so they indicate problems different. Thus, arthritis is an inflammation that affects the synovial membrane, which is a firm and elastic tissue that lines the interior of the joints and reduces friction between the cartilage and the other structures inside the joint. When arthritis occurs, the synovial fluid contained in the synovial membrane spreads throughout the joint instead of being reabsorbed as usual.
Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a chronic disease that consists of the degeneration of the cartilage that covers the bony surfaces of the joint. Cartilage is the tissue that covers the bone and helps reduce friction caused by movement. Over time, the cartilage wears away until it disappears, so that the bones rub against each other and this causes pain and loss of flexibility of the joints.
Arthritis: symptoms and types
Arthritis is a disease that causes ongoing pain, swelling, and redness in the joints, as well as stiffness, deformity, and limited movement. The pain is constant and does not improve with rest and usually presents symmetrically, that is, it affects the same joint on the left and right of the body. The pain and stiffness are usually more intense after being inactive for a long time (such as when we wake up in the morning after sleeping) and, in addition to joint pain, this disease can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as tiredness, fever and weight loss, among others. The patient can combine more bearable periods, in which the pathology remits, with other more difficult periods in which the symptoms are more intense.
Main types of arthritis and diagnosis
There are more than 100 types of arthritis and associated diseases; among the most frequent we must mention osteoarthritis (the most common type of arthritis), rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile, infectious, psoriatic and gout. We review them below:
- osteoarthritis (OA): wear and tear of the cartilage of the joint, causing the bones to rub against each other. This can lead to pain, swelling, and stiffness, and the formation of bone spurs or extra bone around the joint. It can also cause stiffness and weakness of the muscles and ligaments around the joint. Usually affects the hands, knees, hips, or spine and is related to aging or injury
- autoimmune arthritis (the most common being rheumatoid arthritis (RA)): autoimmune inflammatory disease (ie, the antibodies themselves cause inflammation and tissue destruction). In addition to causing pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints (particularly in the fingers and wrists), it can also affect other parts of the body, such as the eyes, mouth, and lungs.
- juvenile arthritis: arthritis that affects children, causing joint swelling (especially hands, knees, and feet) and loss of movement. Sometimes it can also affect internal organs
- infectious arthritis: arthritis caused by a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection that causes severe pain, redness, and swelling in the joints, inability to move the joints, chills, and fever
- psoriatic arthritis: as the name suggests, psoriatic arthritis affects patients with psoriasis (skin disease) and causes pain, stiffness and swelling in the joints
- gout: arthritis due to the accumulation of uric acid in the blood, which is not eliminated and accumulates in the form of crystals in the synovial membrane of the joints. It causes swelling, redness, warmth and stiffness and can be very painful.
There are no specific tests to diagnose arthritis, although blood tests or fluid analysis of the inflamed joint are usually performed.
Osteoarthritis: symptoms and diagnosis
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative and irreversible process that affects the cartilage of the joints. It produces stiffness and pain in the cervical and lumbar spine, in the hands, in the knees and in the hips; sometimes it can also cause inflammation, although it is not usual. Normally the pain worsens with movement, although sometimes too much inactivity (especially among older people, candidates for this pathology) also leads to more problems such as muscle atrophy, deformation and loss of mobility. Unlike arthritis, osteoarthritis only affects the joints and is not usually accompanied by other symptoms.
The diagnosis of osteoarthritis is established based on the physical examination performed by the doctor and the symptoms presented by the patient. Sometimes an X-ray may be required to examine the joint, but the most important thing to diagnose it is the symptomatology.