Rheumatoid arthritis has identifiable signs and symptoms.
Ouch! Your knee is super stiff, or both your hands feel like claws. What gives? If there’s no injury, joint pain is usually due to either rheumatoid arthritis (RA), a systemic autoimmune disease in which an overactive immune system attacks healthy cells, or osteoarthritis (OA), a degenerative disease in which a particular joint is ground down by injury or overuse.
Understand the Underlying Cause
Getting relief may feel like the only thing that matters, but in the long run, the root cause of the pain is very important to determine. “The treatments for the two diseases are different,” says Paula Rackoff, MD, rheumatologist and clinical associate professor in the department of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. “You don’t want to miss the opportunity for reversing the inflammatory component of RA. And you don’t want to treat OA with potentially toxic medication if you don’t need it. But every RA patient eventually gets OA as well, so the pain needs to be diagnosed correctly and reassessed every time.”
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