What is the difference between arthritis and osteoarthritis of the joints?

The problem of joint diseases is always relevant. After the age of forty, about a third of all people begin to experience pain when moving, and after the age of fifty, more than half of the population begins to experience pain. The gradual destruction of cartilage, ligaments, bones and soft tissues around joints is called by doctors the general term "osteoarthritis".

How can this condition be avoided? And what treatments will help alleviate pain once the disease has already developed? To answer these questions, you first need to understand the difference between arthritis and arthrosis – the most common joint pathologies.

What is arthritis?

Arthritis development stages - inflammatory joint damage

The main difference between arthritis and arthrosis can be seen from the names: acute and sudden illnesses end in "-itis"; with "-from" – diseases of a slow course, chronic processes.

Arthritis is an inflammatory lesion of the joints that occurs due to a malfunction of the immune system due to infection (e. g. sore throat or otitis media), trauma, metabolic disorders, hypothermia, stress or other reasons (even autoimmune).

The first signs appear like this:

  • sharp pain in one or more joints (often not just during movement), especially early in the morning;
  • increase, swelling, edema, redness of the painful joint;
  • a noticeable increase in temperature at the site of inflammation.

The inflammatory processes caused by arthritis can affect the entire body. In this case, the patient feels a high fever, chills, loses strength and may experience inflammation of other organs (eyes, genitourinary system, even heart, lungs, liver and kidneys).

Arthritis has several dozen forms. The most common of them are:

  • rheumatism– inflammation of the connective tissue of large and medium joints that occurs after infections;
  • rheumatoid arthritis– a slow autoimmune process that symmetrically affects several joints at the same time; causes the appearance of "nodules", pain, loss of mobility; can cause inflammation of many organs;
  • drop– caused by the accumulation of uric acid in the blood and salts in the joints; most often it begins with a sharp pain in the joint of the big toe;
  • reactive arthritis– occurs against the background of damage to the body by infections (chlamydia, streptococci, etc. );
  • infectious arthritis– begins due to a bacterial infection of the joint itself.

What is osteoarthritis?

Unlike arthritis, arthrosis is not accompanied by inflammatory processes. It causes poor circulation in the joint, which causes the cartilaginous parts to begin to dry out.

Osteoarthritis is a disease that deforms and destroys joint tissue. With it, the bonding layers become dehydrated, become thinner and "worn out". The bones begin to touch, which causes pain and makes it difficult for the person to move.

Signs of joint arthrosis are:

  • after a long period of immobility (e. g. a night's rest), the joint "freezes" but develops rapidly when activity is resumed;
  • the operation of the joint is accompanied by strange sounds (clicks, crunches, creaks);
  • physical activity causes pain.

What are the differences between arthritis and osteoarthritis?

Both diseases affect the joints. But they are caused by different reasons, proceed differently and can lead to very different consequences. Only the correct diagnosis, based on the difference between arthritis and arthrosis, can prevent irreparable damage to the body.

It takes time for the degeneration of cartilage tissue to develop sufficiently and bone deformation to begin. Therefore, chronic arthrosis often manifests itself in old age (after the age of 60, less often after the age of 50). The most susceptible to changes are the joints that constantly work under load: the fingers of musicians, the knees of athletes and porters, the ankles of people who walk a lot or work standing up, etc.

On the other hand, arthritis can occur even in children. The inflammatory process causes pathology of the synovial membrane, saturated with blood vessels, and joint fluid (while in arthrosis it is simply produced in insufficient quantities). Unfortunately, nearly one in five cases of disability worldwide is caused by various forms and complications of arthritis.

Inflammation can affect not only joints, but also other tissues with active blood circulation: blood vessels and heart, lungs, abdominal organs, eyes, urinary system, etc. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is limited by local mechanical damage to the bones and the formation of osteophytes in areas of joint deformation. Although in advanced stages and advanced forms, the disease can also lead to disability, completely immobilizing the person's limbs.

How do arthritis and arthrosis manifest?

Joint pain is the most notable manifestation of osteoarthritis and arthritis.

Let's compare the external manifestations to clearly explain the difference between the symptoms of arthritis and osteoarthritis.

  1. Pain. In the early stages of osteoarthritis (which lasts for years), joint pain occurs during physical activity and disappears after rest. It is rarely sharp and strong. Even as the disease progresses, when pain may appear even with small movements and even at rest, it is usually enough to give the body a comfortable position for the pain to subside. In arthritis, the patient is bothered by attacks of acute and severe pain, which can only be eliminated with special medications. A characteristic symptom is pain during rest, especially early in the morning.
  2. Clicking, grinding, grinding together. In joints affected by osteoarthritis, the cartilage layers are destroyed. They stop protecting the heads of the bones from contact with each other. Therefore, when moving, the bones touch and rub together, producing rough, dry sounds. The more the disease progresses, the stronger and louder the joint clicks become. Arthritis is usually not accompanied by such symptoms.
  3. Deformation of the joint and surrounding tissues. The development of osteoarthritis over time causes a change in the shape of the bones: their heads begin to collapse and wear away, and osteophytes may appear. Sometimes in the acute stages there is swelling and severe pain, but these symptoms are not permanent. But a joint affected by arthritis becomes inflamed and swollen. Forms of swelling and impaction occur. The skin turns red and feels hot.
  4. Limited mobility. Osteoarthritis causes stiffness in a specific joint that disappears with movement. In deeper stages, stiffness increases, flexion amplitude decreases, leading to immobility. With arthritis, you may feel stiffness throughout your body and attempts to move will cause sharp pains.
  5. Changes in blood composition. Arthrosis is not an inflammatory disease, therefore it is not reflected in the analysis. Arthritis causes a significant increase in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate, which indicates an active infectious and inflammatory process.

Thus, the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the early stages can rarely cause serious anxiety and discomfort. This leads to a careless attitude and late diagnosis of the disease, which complicates further treatment.

Causes of osteoarthritis

There are several factors that increase the risk of pathological changes in the joints and surrounding tissues: constant overload, imbalance of the immune and hormonal systems, poor physical shape. Therefore, to prevent disease, you need to regularly follow these recommendations:

  1. Maintain moderate physical activity through simple exercises, walking, swimming, etc. This will help you get rid of excess weight, improve blood circulation, strengthen your muscles - and thus relieve stress on your joints.
  2. Try to eat healthy foods. Fatty foods, red meat and alcohol can be harmful. On the contrary, seafood, fruits and vegetables and dishes containing cartilage and gelatin will be beneficial for the body. It is important to drink plenty of clean water (2-3 liters per day).
  3. Choose appropriate clothes and shoes: comfortable, warm enough heels that do not restrict movement.
  4. If possible, avoid stress, upsets and other "shocks" to the body.

However, if a person has already been diagnosed with arthritis or arthrosis, then even before carrying out these simple actions, you should consult a doctor. In some cases, conventional prevention can also cause damage and worsen the condition.

But how are arthritis and osteoarthritis treated? What is the difference? The causes of these pathologies differ: immunological processes, fighting infection in the first case versus cartilage malnutrition in the second. Therefore, the ways of dealing with them will be different. To choose the correct course of action, you must first make an accurate diagnosis.

To do this, it is best to perform radiography and MRI in combination with laboratory tests of blood and urine. After studying the results, the doctor will prescribe appropriate recommendations.

Arthritis treatment

If the acute form of the disease is caused by an infection, it can be cured with antibiotics. But in this case, it is important to select the medicine accurately: it is necessary to neutralize pathogenic bacteria before the joint pathology becomes irreversible. The course is supplemented with anti-inflammatory and immune-supporting medications.

In the case of chronic arthritis (e. g. rheumatoid), treatment must be carried out regularly throughout life. The most commonly used are corticosteroids, cytostatics and modern biological products. These are very potent medications, therefore, to ensure that they do not cause harm to the body, it is essential to correctly calculate the dosages, frequency and duration of use.

For severe pain, your doctor may also prescribe a course of pain relievers. And accompanying support methods are necessarily recommended: diet, physiotherapy and a course of physiotherapy. If the inflammation has spread to other organs, the patient must be referred for additional specialized examinations.

Osteoarthritis treatment

Modern methods make it possible to almost completely eliminate the manifestations of the disease if the diagnosis is made early and the patient's age does not reach forty years. To do this, in addition to standard monitoring of stress on the joint and a course of medications (they initiate regeneration, restore nutrition and hydration to the cartilage), the patient may be prescribed mud bandages, electrophoresis and acoustic therapy (which affects the affected tissue with low frequency sounds).

In the elderly or in advanced forms, osteoarthritis cannot be completely cured, although it is possible to achieve a significant improvement in the condition and delay the destructive processes of the joint. This requires strict adherence to the doctor's recommendations: regular use of medications (for example, chondroprotectors), maintaining a healthy lifestyle, timely completion of prescribed procedures, monitoring joint load.

With arthrosis, the main attention is paid to the restoration of the cartilaginous layer. If there are concomitant symptoms of inflammatory processes, antibiotics or corticosteroids may be prescribed to alleviate the acute phase and switch to the main treatment regimen. In some serious cases, surgery and even implantation of an artificial joint may be necessary.