Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis Related Question & Answer

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is a loss of cartilage which is the smooth surface that covers the bone that allows joints to move and glide.

osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid arthritis

How is the difference between Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis?

Although there are blood tests that can be helpful in diagnosing Rheumatoid arthritis, we can usually tell the difference between Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis based on examining your hands. Osteoarthritis typically affects the joints out in the fingers and at the base of the thumb. Meanwhile, Rheumatoid arthritis mainly affects the joints that link the hand to the fingers.

Are there different types of arthritis?

The most common types of arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis and  Osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an immune process where one’s body makes excessive inflammation in and around the joints, ultimately destroying the joints. There are other less common inflammatory processes like this, including joint problems associated with lupus, gout, and psoriasis.

On the other hand, Osteoarthritis is a process where joints actually get worn out. This may be the result of using joints over a lifetime but also is related to genetics as arthritis will run in certain families.

If I have arthritis, am I going to get worse every year?

If you have arthritis, you are not significantly going to get worse over time. Pain connected with arthritis can get better or worse at times, requiring treatment. Despite how arthritis may mark on an x-ray, some patients actually shift less painful over time. The joints themselves may continue to lose cartilage, but this can stiffen joints and actually result in less pain.

What treatment options are available for arthritis?

There are multiple treatments that you and your doctor can discuss. All of the treatments are designed to decrease painful inflammation associated with arthritic joints.

Conservative Treatment Options

  • RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)
  • Heat therapy
  • Exercises
  • Bracing
  • Oral or injected steroids
  • Oral and topical anti-inflammatory medications
  • Activity modification

Surgical Treatment Options

  • Removing bone (at the base of the thumb)
  • Replacements and fusions

Am I continuing to damage my hands with use?

I do not believe that you are damaging your hands by using them if you have arthritis. If joints are somewhat worn, use may result in the hands causing pain. However, this does not mean you are not “doing damage” to your hands.

Can glucosamine or acupuncture help arthritis?

Possibly. I do not believe that either can actually reverse arthritis, but patients have reported pain relief with each method. I have no problem with patients trying these alternative treatments to see if they provide relief.


Can arthritis be reversed?

Currently, do not have any treatment to reverse arthritis or re-grow cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with powerful medications that suppress the immune system but do not reverse joint damage.

Why would you fuse a joint?

Surgeons may recommend fusing arthritic joints. This does result in a joint that doesn’t move but typically provides long-standing pain relief in a joint that already has limited motion. One advantage is that a fused joint will stand up to a lot of activity over time.

How do I know when I need surgery?

That is a decision that is best made between you and your treating physician. Typically surgery is only considered if conservative treatments fail and the pain from arthritis continues to limit your activity or cause pain that is intolerable.

Can any home remedies help?

Experiment with hot and cold therapies to stop pain flare-ups. Leave the pouch in place until it cools down. For cooling relief, a bag of frozen peas and drape around your joint to ease pain and swelling. If you wake up with the stiffness of joint, swollen hands, consider wearing gloves to bed. Swelling can occur when body fluids resettle at night.

Glucosamine: is it helpful or not?

The data on glucosamine and chondroitin, natural compounds found in healthy cartilage and available in supplement form, and their ability to reduce joint pain. An analysis from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine finally brings clarity to the issue: Glucosamine is most effective in sulfate form; combined with chondroitin, it reduces joint pain, but is less helpful for those who have mild discomfort. Dosage is important too: A combination pill totaling 1,500 mg of glucosamine sulfate and 1,200 mg of chondroitin, taken daily, provides the most relief.

Are there foods that ease arthritis?

Yes, eating foods known to fight inflammation, a symptom of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, may ease the pain," who recommends that your weekly diet includes several servings of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids such as wild Alaskan salmon and other cold-water fish, freshly ground flaxseed, omega-3-fortified eggs, and walnuts. Season meals with ginger and turmeric as often as possible; these spices appear to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Certain vegetables, such as tomatoes, potatoes,  can worsen arthritis pain. Also, limit inflammation-triggering foods, like polyunsaturated vegetable oils (such as corn and soy oils) and the partially hydrogenated oils found in many kinds of margarine, vegetable shortenings, and processed foods.

Can I do anything to prevent arthritis?

Yes, and because there's no cure, arthritis disease prevention is your best bet. The three big things you can do are 1) work out regularly and stay active 2) prevent injuries to your joints and 3) maintain a healthy weight. Slimming down can also help if you already suffer from arthritis, and you don't have to lose a lot to make a difference. When you walk, your knees absorb a force equal to about 3 times your body weight. So losing just 10 pounds actually relieves each knee of about a 30-pound load with every stride you take.