Arthritis refers to the damage of soft tissue and bony structures associated with a single or multiple joints. There are many different types of arthritis that will lead to destruction of joints. Some of the most common causes are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). They both can lead to pain, stiffness, swelling and decreased range of motion. However, the underlying cause of both of these conditions is different.
Osteoarthritis is typically related to daily wear and tear of joints and is seen in the elderly. Factors such as injury, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and smoking can lead to an earlier onset. Rheumatoid arthritis is an auto-immune condition and is caused by the body’s own immune system attacking the joints. There are several risk factors, but some of the more common ones are female sex and family history. A diagnosis can be made based on history, physical exam, X-ray, MRI and lab tests.
Pain from OA can be treated with anti-inflammatory and analgesic medications, physical therapy, exercise, steroid injections and viscosupplementation. Additionally, RA can be treated with corticosteroids, monoclonal antibodies and disease modifying agents that are targeted at regulating the immune response.