What is rheumatoid arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis is a long-term autoimmune condition that causes swelling, pain and stiffness in the joints. It usually affects the wrists, hands and feet, and is caused by the body’s immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue and causing chronic inflammation. If rheumatoid arthritis is left untreated, it can cause severe damage and potential destruction to a joint.
What’s the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?
Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage between joints wears down, whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. Although ‘arthritis’ means inflammation of a joint, the causes between the two arthritis conditions are different.
Osteoarthritis is typically caused by ‘wear and tear’ of the joints, and as such most commonly affects older people. Rheumatoid arthritis is more rare, and is known as a ‘systemic inflammatory condition’ that affects the entire body. While osteoarthritis typically begins in a single joint, rheumatoid arthritis often manifests symmetrically – for example affecting both ankles or both wrists.