Although they are sometimes confused and some symptoms are similar, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are very different diseases. According to a paper titled "Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid Arthritis" released by the Terrebonne General Medical Center (TGMC), joint pain should be evaluated by a doctor.
Because, even though the symptoms of the two conditions are similar, the long-term effects can be quite different. If left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can destroy the joints, cause deformities and inflammation in other parts of the body.
The causes of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are different. Although genetics or heredity may play a role in both, as it does in many diseases, osteoarthritis is often referred to as "wear and tear" in the joints that occurs over a period of many years or even a lifetime and is most common in people over the age of 50. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, can affect children or adults. It is not caused by "wear and tear". It causes "wear and tear".
In explaining osteoarthritis vs rheumatoid arthritis, a simple illustration of bones, cartilage and the synovial membrane is often used, but explaining the cause of rheumatoid arthritis is far from simple. It is considered by most to be an inflammatory autoimmune disorder, although there are other theories.
In an autoimmune disorder, the body fails to recognize its own parts down to the cellular level. Because, the natural immune system response is to attack those things that do not belong in the body, if the immune system fails to recognize a body part as part of itself, then it will naturally launch an attack against that body part.
In rheumatoid arthritis, it is believed that the immune system considers some part of the joint (whether it be bone, cartilage or fluid) an invader. Signals are sent out among the cells and the immune system launches its attack. White blood cells are sent to the area to fight infection (even though no infection is present), inflammatory compounds are produced (even though there is no need for inflammation) and swelling, redness and pain is experienced in the joints.
This is a very simplified explanation. Immune system responses are actually quite complex. But, the purpose here is to briefly and simply describe the primary difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, so that people may better understand the difference in treatment choices and the need for professional diagnosis and early treatment.
In "Osteoarthrits vs Rheumatoid Arthritis", TGMC staff writers warn that, if left untreated, rheumatoid arthritis can cause serious damage to joints in as little as two years. Aggressive treatment early on may prevent the progression of the disease. People sometime go into periods of remission, where little or no symptoms are present.
Natural anti-inflammatories, such as omega 3 fatty acids, may help benefit these arthritic conditions, although they are certainly not cures.
According to The John Hopkins Arthritis Center:
"The major goals of treatment of the arthritis are to reduce pain and discomfort, prevent deformities and loss of joint function, and maintain a productive and active life. Inflammation must be suppressed...."[End Quote]
And according to the University of Maryland's Medical Website:
"Most clinical studies investigating the use of omega-3 fatty acid supplements for inflammatory joint conditions have focused almost entirely on rheumatoid arthritis. Several articles reviewing the research in this area conclude that omega-3 fatty acid supplements reduce tenderness in joints, decrease morning stiffness, and allow for a reduction in the amount of medication needed for people with rheumatoid arthritis.
Similarly, 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."[End Quote]
Therefore, if you suffer from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, you may want to include more omega 3 fatty acids for their anti-inflammatory effects. Talk to your doctor.