Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

When an arthritis diagnosis is made, it usually involves a subcategory, like rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.


A lot of people do not know this, but there are a lot of varieties of arthritis out there. The most common out of all those would be rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Many people confuse the two. And that is why in this article, we would be discussing the differences between osteoarthritis symptoms and the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. These would be the most obvious indicators of each condition. But before we do that, let us first take a look at what arthritis is all about.

Arthritis Diagnosis – Looking into the Basics

An arthritis diagnosis is made when a person undergoes certain laboratory testing which indicates the condition. Arthritis is caused by an inflammation in the joints. This inflammation would cause a type of pain called arthralgia.

Specific causes of arthritis would be the following:

  • Trauma or injury
  • Abnormality in metabolism
  • Genetics
  • Infection
  • Immune system malfunction

When making an arthritis diagnosis, the doctor would recommend a series of tests.  These tests would then be correlated to the symptoms manifested to make an accurate conclusion. Since there are several different types of arthritis, the tests would be tailored to the specific type that you have. In essence, osteoarthritis would require different testing as compared to rheumatoid arthritis. Those would be discussed in the following paragraphs.

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a condition that results in the breakdown and loss of cartilage in the joints. It could be caused by aging, obesity, trauma, uric acid deposits and an abnormality in the formation of joints. Most people affected by osteoarthritis would be those 55 years and older, female, and usually of the Japanese race.

Diagnosing osteoarthritis would require the following tests:

  • X-rays of the affected body parts. The results would show a very obvious wear in the cartilage inbetween the joints.
  • Arthrocentesis. This would require the insertion of a sterile needle to the affected joint and withdrawing the fluid. This could also help relieve joint pain and swelling. This procedure could easily be done on an out-patient basis.
  • Arthroscopy. In this procedure, an arthroscope would be inserted into the affected joint. Through this method, the doctor would be able to detect the damaged cartilage. In some cases, a repair could even be made.

The results of these tests would then be correlated to the osteoarthritis symptoms manifested by the patient. The treatment would then be tailored to his specific needs.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diagnosis

Rheumatoid arthritis differs in a lot of ways as compared to osteoarthritis. Where osteoarthritis is the breakdown of the cartilage in the joints, rheumatoid arthritis is the inflammation of the joints due to autoimmunity. That would mean that the body’s immune system failed to recognize specific tissues of the body, and thus starts attacking it like an invader. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition, but it can be controlled with proper treatment.

As mentioned earlier, the type of testing would vary depending on the type of condition that one has. Rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis would typically require bloods tests. They would be the following:

  • Rheumatoid factor. A blood test positive for the rheumatoid factor would indicate that the patient is positive for rheumatoid arthritis. The rheumatoid factor is the autoantibody that is responsible for causing the onset of this condition.
  • Erythrocyte sedimentation rate. This measures how fast the erythrocytes fall in a controlled setting. A high sedimentation rate would indicate inflammation.
  • C-reactive protein. This is also another blood test that could determine inflammation.

Now that we have cleared up the differences in diagnosing both conditions, let us look into their symptoms.

Osteoarthritis Symptoms vs. Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

As you may have very well seen, both the causes and diagnostic methods for each condition vary. Osteoarthritis symptoms are also different as compared to the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Their only similarity would be joint pain. But as to the location and triggering factors, they are again different.

Osteoarthritis symptoms:

  • Joint pain and  stiffness
  • Pain is triggered by  exercise or lifting of heavy weight
  • Crepitus or cracking sound when the joint is moved
  • Morning stiffness of the affected joint – around 30 minutes
  • Rest relieves osteoarthritis symptoms

Symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis:

  • Morning stiffness lasting for an hour
  • The affected joint would feel warm and tender
  • Joint pain on the affected part is  equilateral
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness and tingling on hands and feet

Treatment Methods

As expected, treatment for both conditions would also vary. As the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are different from that of osteoarthritis, the treatment method would be modified to ease the patient’s symptoms and minimize the inflammation. This would include anti-inflammatory medication and DMARDs or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs. DMARDs are use to slow down the development of the disease.

Since osteoarthritis symptoms could be cause by specific factors, treatment would include losing weight and non weight bearing exercises like swimming. A healthy diet low in purine is recommended. Sufficient rest should also be observed to prevent straining the joints. Warm and cold compress may help relieve pain, as well as taking pain relief medication.

If a person observes symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis, he should immediately consult with his physician. If left alone, these symptoms could be very debilitating and could impede daily activities.

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