The differences between rheumatoid and osteoarthritis
ojoel/Shutterstock Joint pain, swelling, stiffness, and grinding joints—they’re all classic arthritis symptoms. However, there are some silent early signs that masquerade as something insignificant, but in truth indicate the onset of arthritis. Do you know what to look for?
First, it’s important to understand the difference between the two main types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a concern for all ages (here’s why millennials especially should be concerned about rheumatoid arthritis). This autoimmune disease triggers inflammation that attacks the joints, triggering swelling, tenderness, pain, and limited mobility. RA can also target organs.
Osteoarthritis (OA) has similar symptoms to RA like stiffness and joint pain, but it’s brought on by wear and tear on the joints. OA generally only develops later in life, and the symptoms are limited to the joints.
Rheumatologist Arundathi Jayatilleke MD, is an assistant professor in the division of Rheumatology at Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia. We asked her to tell us which early signs of RA to watch out for.
l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock Fatigue is usually one of the first Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. It can begin weeks or months before other symptoms appear, and is often accompanied by “not feeling right” or mild depression. “It’s just a general feeling of not having very much energy,” says Dr. Jayatilleke, “Like you might have had a virus or flu.” Sometimes this is just a reaction to the raised inflammation levels in your body, but occasionally it could indicate an underlying problem associated with RA. “Sometimes in RA you get anemia,” says Dr. Jayatilleke, “So that can contribute to the fatigue. It might be something picked up on in a blood test.”
Check out these other causes of fatigue, too.