Osteoarthritis is often referred to as a degenerative disease, and in general is the result of wear and tear on a joint due to aging, obesity, overuse, or injury.  Cartilage, which is smooth and moist, becomes thin and rough, wearing itself down to the point of causing the bones to rub together, thus causing severe pain and reducing joint movement.

Most commonly, osteoarthritis affects the fingers, knees, hips, neck and lower back.  If you have osteoarthritis, you may experience brief morning stiffness, pain with movement, bony growths on finger and knee joints, as well as joint “cracking” upon movement.  Although cartilage breakdown may cause a little inflammation, osteoarthritis typically is not associated with inflammation.

On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA) differ from osteoarthritis in that they are chronic, progressive, inflammatory arthritis and autoimmune diseases.  When the immune system of a person with rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis goes astray, it mistakes joint tissue for a foreign invader, attacks the joint tissue, and causes inflammation.  When the inflammatory process advances, enzymes and other chemical mediators can damage cartilage, bone, and ligaments.  Causing, joints to become deformed and functions impair.

Although RA emerges most commonly between the ages of thirty to fifty, it can strike at any age, young and old alike.  About one to three percent of the population is affected with rheumatoid arthritis; however more women are affected than men.  If you have RA, you might feel stiffness in the morning that lasts more than one hour, along with pain and swelling in your joints.  Most commonly affecting the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles, neck and jaw in a symmetrical (equal) fashion, RA can also affect any part of your body.

Psoriasis is a very common skin condition and occurs in one to two percent of Caucasians.  Although it may develop at any age, it most commonly occurs in the late teens.  Furthermore, about ten percent of those who suffer with psoriasis will develop PsA.  About 95% of people with PsA experience swelling of the hand, wrist, elbow, knee, ankle, foot joints, and their surrounding tendons.  Such swelling gives fingers and toes a sausage-like appearance.  The other five percent of people with PsA have inflammation of the spinal joints.  A common complaint with psoriatic arthritis of the spine is that patients usually are awakened at night due to an increase in pain.

The fact is that treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis is quite different.  Osteoarthritis often focuses on pain control, but because rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis are crippling diseases, early detection and diagnosis is the key to ensuring that you receive proper treatment to slow down or even prevent deformity.