what sort of arthritis

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I suspect I have arthritis (painful joints, all of them!) but does it matter whether it's osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, and is there any treatment for either of them apart from painkillers, which I don't want to take? In other words, is it worth bothering to see my GP and get a diagnosis, or shall I just carry on exercising as much as possible and hope for the best?

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  • Posted

    Hello sue. Yes you should go and see your GP. It's important you get a diagnosis. Osteoarthritis is due to wear and tear of the joints. Sometimes physiotherapy can help and you would probably have Xrays to confirm the diagnosis. RA is a different ball game. That is an auto immune disorder that requires more specialist treatment. Blood tests and examination will confirm it and if you have RA you'll probably be prescribed special medication. It can't be cured but it can be prevented from getting worse because the nature of the illness can make the joints much worse. Just make a GP appointment. 
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  • Posted

    Hi Sue, sorry to hear of your painful joints.  In terms of symptoms it doesn't matter a jot whether it's OA or RA, the pain is still there.  The main difference is the cause.  OA is due to wear and tear and erosion of the joints.  RA is an auto immune disease where the body affectively attacks itself.  Treatment can be quite different although pain meds and anti inflammatories are given for both to relieve symptoms.  RA will often cause swelling of the joints, which doesn't generally occur with OA.  Unfortunately, definitely for OA, pain meds are about all that is offered.  There are anti-rheumatic meds (DMARDs) given for RA but realistically pain relief and anti inflammatory meds to reduce inflammation are the only viable treatments.  If you are diagnosed with OA, generally speaking you'll be under the care of your GP, you may get to see a rheumatologist if RA is diagnosed but thereafter it's usual to be discharged back to the GP only.  There are plenty of support groups, associations etc., with general advice and information which can be found online.  Coping with the pain is the main struggle and you'll find lots of different opinions on which pain med is effective or not and their relative side effects and so on. Re seeing the doctor for a diagnosis, yes is the answer - without this you won't know which is the appropriate treatment, self diagnosis can result in taking completely the wrong thing for the specific condition you may or may not have.  I have OA and I won't lie, it's hellishly painful at times but one learns to live with it and work round it.  Good luck.
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    • Posted

      I agree with you loxie and particularly about self diagnosis. As a nurse I'm the worst offender. My RF was raised and I had painful swollen joints so I was referred to a rheumatologist. Xrays show I have osteoarthritis but I also have symptoms of Lupus which I diagnosed myself!!! I told the rheumatologist this so I'm now wIting for antibody blood test results although I am positive for antiphospholipid. So you see I've gone from tell friends and family I have RA then OA, now Lupus. Should have kept quiet really. But again you're right about pain relief. It is so important just so you can carry on with your day to day life.
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    • Posted

      Thank you, both. I didn't realise that RA is an auto-immine disorder. I expect I have boring old osteoarthritis (I already have osteoporosis). What worries me is not so much the pain but general weakness and loss of muscle strength. I still walk a lot but sometimes it's like wading through treacle. Is that related to OA or is it just being old (I'm 69). I did tell my GP a couple of years ago but didn't really get anywhere.
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    • Posted

      Are your shoulders and hips particularly stiff and painful? Have you any other symptoms? Can you raise your arms above your shoulder for example?
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    • Posted

      The trouble is sue that GP's do tend to just fob OA off sometimes. Mine said "Oh good old Arthur. Wear and tear everyone gets when they get older". But until you get it you don't realise just how painful it is. I had a painful shoulder for over 3 years before she did anything about it ie blood test then referral to a rheumatologist. By the time I got my appointment I couldn't move my arm and needed a cortisone injection. Some mornings I can barely walk. So don't leave it. Make that appointment and ask, or insist on a referral.
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    • Posted

      My shoulders and hips are fine, just a little pain in a hip if I walk a lot or lie on it. It's my knees (the worst), elbows, big toe, fingers, neck, base of thumb...that's it. Yes, I can raise my arms, no problem. Any comments on the muscle weakness, anyone?
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    • Posted

      I find I get muscle pain and some weakness but I've put it down to being less  active.
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    • Posted

      I am very active and hope to go on being that way! But it is a struggle sometimes, not the knee pain which gets better with movement, but the weakness. My GP did blood tests and said everything's fine, so no answer there. I suppose I'd better go back and see her but if painkillers are the only option I still don't see the point! Sorry, back where we started. I will mention it to her again when I have a medication review (for the osteoporosis).
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    • Posted

      Which blood tests did he do? If he did the test for the Rheumatoid Factor and it's not raised it doesn't mean you haven't got RA. 
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    • Posted

      Sorry, I don't know what the blood tests were. I should have been paying attention. 
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    • Posted

      Yes, quite! Rheumatoid factor isn't necessarily present in early disease, and sometimes patients remain what is called sero-negative forever. There are sero-negative and sero-positive forms of arthritis and you can be sero-positive and NOT have RA.

      And not having raised ESR (the rate blood cells fall the bottom of a tube) or CRP (a protein that is produced in inflammation) doesn't mean a lot either. About a fifth of patients don't have this inflammatory response. 

      Sometimes I wonder if they slept through their immunology lessons!

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    • Posted

      Hi Sue and others;  I've been reading some of your replies...and I feel that perhaps it should be noted that some Osteo is Just wear and tear...but it can also be caused by Auto-immune ....when body suffers an extreme physical/emotional trauma, the body reacts on itself...and can cause many probs, including Osteo, and the treatment not only includes pain relief, but also anti-inflammatories, to reduce the affect on the joints.  Along with Osteo, can come other probs, like Fibromyalgia and the CF, as the muscles Give Up after awhile...they start to complain about the Extra work they have to do; then comes other treatments to help these probs....never say "just Osteo", as it can be, and does bcome, very debilitating, affecting many joints.   keep researching, and go to the Symptom Checker, Sue, and then present yourself to your GP.  Physiotherapy and exercise are a great help, as primary aid, but you may find that after awhile, these are just not enough, and you may find, at certain times of the year/weather, your symptoms become worse, and may need extra....even some anti-inflammortries to ease pain....good luck.....Bron
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  • Posted

    There is an enormous difference between OA and RA. In OA the cartilage lining the joints has worn away from being used. In RA an autoimmune disorder makes your immune system not recognise your body as "self" and it attacks the tissues and damages the joint linings. Without treatment the joints become more and more damaged and deformed and the pain gets worse.

    There are no drugs yet for OA but if it is really bad and you get to "bone on bone" you can have a joint replacement - not just hips and knees by the way. 

    Nowadays there are many drugs for RA which work in different ways. They are called DMARDs, Disease Modifying AntiRheumatic Drugs, and stop the progression of the damage to the body. Different people need different drugs - but the sooner they are used the better the end result and the less damage will be done. Often patients aren't referred to a rheumatologist quickly and there have been campaigns to encourage GPs to refer patients sooner. 

    So as Matron says - yes, you need to go to your GP and ask them to refer you. It may not be either OA or RA, there are other things that cause painful joints but if you say it is ALL your joints whatever it is it is less likely to be OA and a rheumatologist needs to do some tests.

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  • Posted

    As others have said there is a huge difference I have OA.

    Initially the consultant monitored it until the pain got really bad, then he gave me an injection in the joint that worked for about 6 months and took the pain away. Then it got painful again so I got voltarol on prescription. When that stopped working and it was really painful, I was down to bone on bone .....ouch.... I got a finger joint replacement

    A word of warning your OA can be really bad and pain can be minimal. I wasn't sure about returning to see the consultant as my finger wasn't painful just stiff and not moving. Previously had been very painful. This time I had left it too long!!!  The finger was too far gone for his preferred joint replacement types and when he did the op he said the finger was in a really bad way.

    Definitely go see your GP and findout what the problem is. You don't always hav eto put up with pain. Best of luck

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