Difference between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoporosis!

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At first, the abnormality of immune system in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) attacks lining tissue in the joint called synovium. Overtime the inflamed synovium leads to damage to other parts of the joint, including bone, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. What are the differences between RA and osteoporosis?

Understanding osteoporosis in general

image_illustration307It is a bone disease that can lead to brittle and weak bone. The affected bone can be fragile, even a mild stress that affects the bone may cause a fracture. Fractures in osteoporosis are commonly found in bones of spine, wrist, and hip.

Bone itself is actually a living tissue. In other words, the old cells of bone are continuously replaced by the new cells to keep the bone strong and healthy.

It grows and repairs itself very fast during childhood, but this mechanism slows as you age. Typically, it stops growing at the ages of about 16 – 18, but it continues to become strong in density until the late 20s.

And at the age of about 35, the body is more likely to start losing the density of the bone. Osteoporosis occurs when the amount of new cells to replace the amount of old cells is lower than the body needs.

In most people, losing bone is normal and it can be a part of ageing process. But in some people, this can increase the risk of bone fractures, causing osteoporosis.

The disease affects both women and men equally. But according to some studies, women of specific races (especially such as Asian and white) are at highest risk.

Other risk factors are:

  1. Small frames or/and thinness.
  2. The disease may run in families. If you have a family member (especially first-degree relative like mother and father) who has had osteoporosis, you are more likely to develop the same disease.
  3. Lack of dietary calcium, especially at the ages of when your bone is productive in growing and getting strong in density (before the age of 35, but this may vary from person to person).
  4. The side effect of prolonged use of some treatments /medications, particularly such as glucocorticoids.
  5. In women, the early absence of their menstrual periods (either due to early menopause or something else) can have an effect on the risk, too!
  6. Becoming a sedentary individual (lack of daily physical activity).
  7. Other bad lifestyles such as excessive drinking (too much alcohol consumption) and smoking (cigarette smoking).

The systemic effect of rheumatoid condition

While many types of arthritis affect the joint locally, the same doesn’t go for rheumatoid condition such as RA. If you have RA, the disease can cause an effect on your overall health.

As well we know, RA is an autoimmune disorder. This means it is related with the abnormality of the immune system. That’s why the effect of the disease can be systemic if it is poorly controlled.

The disease starts from the inflamed membranes (synovium) surrounding the joint. This inflammation may trigger the body to release enzymes and make bone, cartilage, and other parts of the joint wear away. Even in severe cases, the disease can lead to some serious complications.

Still, the arthritis-like symptoms such as joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the main symptoms of RA. But it could cause symptoms or problems that have nothing to do with the joint – these may include unintended weight loss, appetite loss, fatigue, sweating, or fever (general feeling of illness).

The disease can be found in all ethnic and racial groups. But it is more often found in women, it occurs in 2-3 times as many women as men. It is not directly linked to the ages, though it is commonly found in older adults at the ages of 40-60.

The most common form of arthritis that is thought to be linked with the age is osteoarthritis (OA), though age is also not the single answer since not all elderly people have the disease. See also the differences between RA and OA.

Differences between RA vs. osteoporosis!

Both diseases are different health conditions. While osteoporosis is locally associated with problems of bone – RA can be a systemic condition and can affect your overall health, as noted before.

The common complications of osteoporosis include bone fractures (especially in the hip or/and spine). And RA complications can be systemic, see more in here!

Interestingly, osteoporosis is a common complication of poorly-controlled rheumatoid arthritis.


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