What is Osteoarthritis?

Often called "wear and tear" arthritis, osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common form of arthritis in the U.S. In most cases, over time, cartilage in joints breaks down, and OA symptoms begin to occur. OA is most commonly found in the:
# Knees
# Hips
# Hands and fingers
# Spine
Wrists, elbows, shoulders, and ankles can also be affected by OA, but this occurs less frequently. When OA is found in these joints, there may have been a history of injury or stress to that joint.

The symptoms of osteoarthritis

Typically, OA comes on slowly. For many, the first signs are joints that ache after physical work or exercise. As the disease progresses, other most common symptoms include:
# Pain in a joint
# Swelling or tenderness in one or more joints
# Stiffness after periods of inactivity, such as sleeping or sitting
# Flare-ups of pain and inflammation after use of the affected joint
# Crunching feeling or sound of bone rubbing on bone (called crepitus) when the joint is used
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it's important to talk to your doctor to find out if you have OA.

What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks normal joint tissues, causing inflammation of the joint lining.
This inflammation of the joint lining (called the synovium) can cause pain, stiffness, swelling, warmth, and redness. The affected joint may also lose its shape, resulting in loss of normal movement. RA is an ongoing disease, with active periods of pain and inflammation, known as flares, alternating with periods of remission, when pain and inflammation disappear.
RA can affect many different joints. In some people, it can even affect parts of the body other than the joints, including the eyes, blood, the lungs, and the heart.

Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although RA is often a chronic disease, the severity and duration of symptoms may unpredictably come and go. With RA, people experience periods of increased disease activity, called flare-ups or flares, alternating with periods when the symptoms fade or disappear, called remission.
If you experience some of these symptoms, you may want to talk to your doctor:
1. Pain and stiffness lasting for more than 1 hour in the morning or after a long rest
2. Joint inflammation in the joints closest to the hand, such as wrist and fingers, although the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, and feet can also be affected
3. Symmetrical pattern of inflammation, meaning both sides of the body are usually affected at the same time
4. Fatigue, an occasional fever, and a general sense of not feeling well (called malaise) As RA progresses, about 25% of people with the disease develop small lumps of tissue under the skin, called rheumatoid nodules, which can vary in size. Usually, they are not painful.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described above, it is important to find out from a doctor if you have RA.