Arthritis and osteoarthritis

Two words, two realities

We often hear the words "arthritis" and "osteoarthritis" during conversations, two terms that can be easily confused. Yet, these two conditions are very different.

Arthritis: too often a loosely used term

It can sometimes be difficult to understand the various medical terms describing joint pain. The term “arthritis” is a generic term that groups together roughly 100 different joint diseases. The common denominator between these diseases is joint pain. Swelling, redness and loss of mobility can also be part of the overall picture.

In layman’s terms, many people use the term “arthritis” in reference to two diseases in particular: osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Yet, these are different disorders. Other diseases are part of the broad category of arthritic disorders, including psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and Paget’s disease.

Osteoarthritis: THEE most common type of arthritis

Who hasn’t heard someone say “I have arthritis” when that person seems quite healthy? Osteoarthritis is often closely linked to aging. It is the result of a gradual deterioration of the joints due to various factors, including age, repetitive joint movement, a past injury or obesity.

People who suffer from osteoarthritis are often bothered by joint pain or stiffness. Deformity of the affected joint can sometimes be observed.

How does osteoarthritis develop?

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease of the articular cartilage in the joint (smooth, strong and elastic tissue that covers the extremity of bones which form the joint, acting as a shock absorber). Individuals will experience damage to some of their joints in the course of their lifetime.

In the case of osteoarthritis, cartilage is damaged and slowly wears away; the bare bone is then exposed to friction, which over time, contributes to damage and causes pain, discomfort and stiffness. Several joints may be affected by osteoarthritis, including those of the hands, spinal column, hips and knees.

Osteoarthritis is a common health problem in people over the age of 60; but it is not a serious problem. However, it may have a significant impact on quality of life.

How do I know if I suffer from osteoarthritis?

It is always necessary to be diagnosed by a doctor. However, you may suffer from osteoarthritis if you are in the following categories:

  • You are over 50 years of age.
  • You have a family history of osteoarthritis.
  • You experience discomfort or pain in one or several joints.
  • You have stiff joints, especially when you wake up in the morning.
  • You have reduced articular mobility.
  • You can see joint deformity or swelling.
  • One or several joints tend to “lock”.
  • You hear a cracking sound when you move the joint
  • Rest relieves your articular symptoms.
  • Your general health is good aside from the articular symptoms.

Other types of arthritis

Aside from osteoarthritis, it can be said that most other types of arthritis have one common characteristic: joint inflammation. The inflammation process may be due to several different factors such as infection, biochemical imbalance or genetic defect. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation is due to an immune system imbalance which, to a certain extent, attacks one or several joints.

It isn’t unusual for an individual suffering from a different type of arthritis than osteoarthritis to have other symptoms than just the affected joints, such as fatigue, fever, general malaise, loss of appetite, etc. Sometimes, nerves and organs (especially the heart or lungs) may be affected.

Arthritis may also accompany another type of disease, for example, psoriatic arthritis affects certain individuals who have psoriasis (a skin disease).

Tips on how to relieve joint pain

If you suffer from joint pain, here are a few tips:

  • First, be sure to get a medical diagnosis.
  • Learn to recognize your limits and when to rest. Some activities may worsen your symptoms, especially if you suffer from osteoarthritis.
  • Exercise to the extent of your abilities. Total inactivity may worsen the problem.
  • Lose weight to avoid putting stress on your joints.
  • Don’t suffer from pain. Over-the-counter analgesics are available at the pharmacy, particularly acetaminophen, an effective and safe product which is the most recommended therapeutic option to fight osteoarthritis pain.
  • Always talk to your pharmacist or doctor before taking medication to relieve joint pain.

Don't hesitate to speak to your pharmacist for additional information on the different types of arthritis, joint pain or available treatments.


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Arthritis and osteoarthritis

We often hear the words "arthritis" and "osteoarthritis" during conversations, two terms that can be easily confused. Yet, these two conditions are very different.