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Nearly 1 in 4 adults in the US suffers from some form of arthritis. The most common type is osteoarthritis, followed by rheumatoid. There are around 100 types of arthritis in all, many of which can affect the arms and shoulders. By diagnosing your arthritis and identifying its cause, we can get you started on the path to a treatment plan that will combat the pain and stiffness that arthritis can cause.

What Are Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid?

Rheumatoid and osteoarthritis both involve the joints and have a large overlap in symptoms. However, the two have very different causes. Osteoarthritis is caused by wear and tear on the joints that accumulate over time. Cartilage can degrade over time, leading to pain and swelling. In cases with extreme wear on the cartilage, bone spurs may develop where the bones rub together.

Osteoarthritis is often considered a disease of the elderly. However, anyone who has a job or hobby that puts stress on the joints can develop osteoarthritis. For instance, those who have a job that requires repeatedly lifting may develop arthritis of the shoulders over time. Osteoarthritis can be symmetrical with pain on both sides or suffered more on one side of the body than the other.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that can strike an individual at any age. Like many autoimmune disorders, it is more common in women than in men. You are also more likely to develop RA if you have already been diagnosed with another autoimmune disorder. Unlike osteoarthritis, RA is caused by an immune response. A sufferer’s body will attack the joints, causing pain and inflammation. RA symptoms can show up anywhere in the body, even in a joint that is not heavily used. RA symptoms tend to be symmetrical, with symptoms on both sides of the body.

What Causes Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid?

Osteoarthritis in the shoulder is caused by wear on the two joints that meet in that area. These joints are where the collarbone meets the tip of the shoulder blade and the top of the arm bone. Because the joints in this area get a lot of work, it is a common area for osteoarthritis.

No one fully understands what causes rheumatoid arthritis at this time. The immune system normally makes antibodies to fight off bacteria and viruses. In people who have autoimmune disorders, it sends antibodies to attack healthy tissue instead. In people who have RA, the thin layer of tissue that covers the joints is attacked, causing inflammation. This can damage nearby cartilage, tendons, ligaments and bone.

Symptoms of Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid

Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are characterized by:

• Pain
• Swelling
• Stiffness
• Limited range of motion

Additionally, people who have osteoarthritis will find that their symptoms are worse after activity or at the end of the day. People with osteoarthritis may wake up feeling stiff, but gain mobility after being awake for a couple of hours.

People who have rheumatoid arthritis may also experience warmth in their joints, weight loss, fever and general fatigue.

Diagnosing Arthritis

Diagnosing both types of arthritis starts with a personal and family medical history and a physical exam. If osteoarthritis is suspected, diagnostic tests that include X-rays and MRIs may be performed. Rheumatoid arthritis can be diagnosed with blood tests. These tests assess blood factors that indicate that you have an autoimmune disorder.

Osteoarthritis & Rheumatoid Treatment

Both rheumatoid and osteoarthritis can be treated with medications that reduce pain and swelling. Medications like corticosteroids can be administered orally or through an injection to battle inflammation. Additionally, RA may be treated with medications that reduce immune response to reduce the attacks on the tissue in your joints.

Physical therapy can help reduce pain and can teach individuals suffering from arthritis exercises to increase strength and range of movement. Weight loss and a diet rich in foods that fight inflammation can improve arthritis symptoms. Your healthcare providers will discuss the best foods to eat to reduce symptoms.

Arthritis Video

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