A Comparison of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis: Diagnosis and Treatment

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Arthritis is one of the most common chronic illnesses managed in primary care. Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are two common types the provider must distinguish between in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Osteoarthritis, the most common form, typically occurs in people more than 60 years of age and involves cartilage destruction. Signs and symptoms are local and include cool, bony joints and arthralgia that worsens with weight bearing. Treatment includes acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), exercise, and joint arthroplasty in severe cases. Rheumatoid arthritis is a systemic disease that results in symmetrical joint inflammation along with constitutional symptoms such as fatigue and depression. Current treatment recommendations include early use of disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs along with NSAIDs. The key to arthritis management is early diagnosis and treatment to prevent further joint destruction and maximize functional ability.

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