Here we look at the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as the similarities. The exact cause of osteoarthritis is unknown, but it often accompanies aging. Likewise, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, although there are several theories.
Most people over the age of 60 have some degree of osteoarthritis, but the severity of the condition varies greatly. Rheumatoid arthritis can develop at any age, but there may be periods of remission when no symptoms are felt.
In both diseases and other less common forms of arthritis, joint pain is the primary symptom. The difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis joint pain is one of the factors that doctors use for diagnosis. In osteoarthritis, there may be pain in only one joint -- for instance, the left knee. In rheumatoid arthritis, pain occurs in the same joint on both sides of the body; in other words, both knees would be painful.
The cause of osteoarthritis pain is a gradual wearing away or thinning of the cartilage cushions that prevent the bones of a joint from rubbing together and acts as a kind of shock absorber. Injury or over use can cause damage to the cartilage and may lead to osteoarthritis. As the cartilage wears away, inflammation or swelling can occur.
In rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation and pain occurs before the cartilage cushions are damaged. In fact, chronic inflammation in the joints can lead to damage of the cartilage and increased pain.
Looking for the cause of osteoarthritis, researchers have identified several factors that increase a person's risk of developing the condition. They are obesity, heredity and joint injury or overuse. One difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is that, other than heredity, no risk factors have been identified.
Being overweight or obese increases the stress on the joints in the knees, hips and ankles and so increases the likelihood of osteoarthritis. In a similar fashion, being overweight may aggravate rheumatoid arthritis, but does not increase the likelihood of developing the condition.
Joint injury or overuse does not play a role in rheumatoid arthritis, although some activities are more likely to increase pain, while others, such as swimming may improve joint mobility.
Heredity or genetics is likely to play a role in many diseases. As a cause of osteoarthritis, genetic abnormalities of the joints often lead to osteoarthritis in later life. For example, those people with scoliosis of the spine often develop osteoarthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, the role of genetics is unknown, but it does seem to "run in families".
One major difference between osteoarthrits and rheumatoid arthritis is that RA can affect other parts of the body, while osteoarthritis only affects the joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, something triggers the immune system to attack otherwise healthy joints. In some cases, the immune system also attacks the skin, eyes, lungs, blood vessels, heart or nerves.
There also may be a difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment. For example, drugs that suppress the immune system are sometimes prescribed for RA, but would not be helpful in osteoarthritis. On the other hand, anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for both conditions.
Natural products with anti-inflammatory activity, such as fish oil or omega 3 fatty acids have been shown to relieve pain in many people and are not accompanied by the negative side effects associated with long term use of anti-inflammatory drugs.
Pubmed, a prestigious service of the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health has a study published from the Department of Immunology and Rheumatology, Instituto Nacional de la Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, in Mexico City, Mexico, in which they conclude: "Treatment with omega-3 fatty acids has been associated with improvement in some outcome measures in rheumatoid arthritis."
Although fish oil should be a top choice for someone looking for a potent natural anti-inflammatory, most people in the Western world have never heard of another one known as the New Zealand green lipped mussel. On the University of Maryland's Medical Website they reveal:
"....New Zealand green lipped mussel ( Perna canaliculus ), another potential source of omega-3 fatty acids, has been shown to reduce joint stiffness and pain, increase grip strength, and enhance walking pace in a small group of people with osteoarthritis."
In addition, since the cause of osteoarthrits pain, and to a certain extent the cause of rheumatoid arthritis pain, is deterioration of the cartilage cushions, supplements that are rich sources of omega 3 fatty acids are now the chosen remedy for many people with arthritis, regardless if it's rheumatoid or osteoarthritis.
Omega 3 fatty acids also come with the added benefit of improving heart and brain health.
However, people already using other blood thinners need to tell their doctor if they wish to add omega 3 oils to their diet.