This Is How Arthritis Affects Your Joints

Any of the more than 100 types of arthritis can cause tenderness and swelling of your joints, but not always for the same reasons. The most common forms of the disease, however, result in the deterioration of affected joints and may eventually lead to permanent disability without effective treatment.

Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis represent the most common types of arthritic conditions, ranking first and second on the list. Here’s a look at how each of these forms takes its toll on the joints of your body.

Wear and tear: the effects of osteoarthritis

As the most common form of arthritis, osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but it’s most regularly found in the joints of your hands, hips, knees, and spine. Typically, osteoarthritis results from wear and tear on your joints, causing the deterioration of cartilage, a protective covering over the ends of bones where they meet at a joint.

The slippery nature of cartilage permits the reduced friction needed for smooth motion of joints. As osteoarthritis takes effect, the quality and quantity of cartilage erodes. With that cushion worn down, you can eventually end up with bone-on-bone contact, which is typically a painful condition.

However, the entire structure of a joint can be affected. Bones may change, developing small outcroppings called spurs, which can accelerate bone contact. Tendons and ligaments can deteriorate, further compromising the range of motion of a joint. The lining of most joints, called the synovium, can become inflamed.

Inflammatory attack: the nature of rheumatoid arthritis

Where osteoarthritis is more akin to a mechanical problem, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, like Type 1 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or psoriasis. This type of illness results when your body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue.

In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system preys on the synovium, the lining of about 80% of the joints in your body. Inflammation caused by rheumatoid arthritis can also attack other parts of your body too, in some cases affecting skin, eyes, lungs, heart, or blood vessels. 

Of your body’s joints, rheumatoid arthritis usually affects small joints first, such as those in fingers and toes.

Rheumatoid arthritis thickens the synovium, leading to the deterioration of cartilage and bone, while also affecting tendons and ligaments. Joints lose shape, alignment, and range of motion. Ultimately, rheumatoid arthritis results in conditions very similar to osteoarthritis, though the mechanisms of each disease are quite different.

Lots in common: symptoms of arthritis

Most forms of arthritis cause swollen, painful joints. Joint stiffness is usually more pronounced in the morning or after periods of inactivity. Joints that are also warm to the touch are more likely affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

Neither osteoarthritis nor rheumatoid arthritis can be cured, but the symptoms are often manageable, and treatment can slow or halt the progression of either condition. Pain management is often part of treatment when your condition is advanced enough to interfere with your ability to function.

Adding a pain management specialist to your treatment team is a smart choice that may help delay the need for joint replacement surgery. Controlling pain can extend your activity levels, which can be an important part of treatment, particularly for osteoarthritis.

Dr. James Nassiri and the team at Westside Pain Specialists have the experience and expertise to develop a personalized pain management plan that suits your condition. Call the arthritis experts at the most convenient office today or send them a message here on the website at any time.

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