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Difference Between Rheumatic Arthritis and Ankylosing Spondylitis

Rheumatic Arthritis vs Ankylosing Spondylitis

How a number of diseases start or come about still remains a big mystery for doctors who try to explain these phenomena. In certain circumstances, some of the disease’s etiology or origin becomes unknown. For the medically inclined, the unknown origin of a disease is termed as “idiopathic.” Additionally, these types of diseases are said to be caused by the body’s own defenses, the immune system. Instead of fighting off foreign bodies and harmful microorganisms who try to invade the body, the body’s own immune system combats the body system itself. Due to unknown reasons, the body is compromised from undue attacks from the immune responses created. These diseases that are caused by the body’s own immune system response are called autoimmune diseases. A very commonly heard condition that affects a rapidly increasing number of individuals nowadays is what we call as rheumatic arthritis or simply termed as RA.

Rheumatic arthritis is an autoimmune disorder of the musculoskeletal system wherein it affects bones, joints, and even organs. It is mainly characterized by an inflammation and stiffening of the joints mostly located in the extremities in both the hands and feet. It is distinguished by its bilateral involvement of both joints. RA is one of the autoimmune disorders that cause a great deal of pain for the affected individual. However, quite a few other types of rheumatic diseases are much alike in characteristics to RA. One of its closely similar disease relations is what is called ankylosing spondylitis. Though both conditions fall under the autoimmune class of diseases, a number of differences are then spotted to distinguish between the two.

Ankylosing spondylitis, like RA, is an autoimmune disorder that affects the bones, joints, and organs. Yet, unlike RA, it does not mainly involve the joints of the extremities but instead is characterized by affecting the mobility of the spine and sacroiliac joints. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a progressive inflammation and stiffening of the spine and its parts. In the long run, AS may lead to vertebral fusing and eventually may cause a bent posture. In terms of affected bony parts, AS mostly affects the axial skeleton while it rarely does for RA. Anatomically speaking, RA usually causes a great deal of inflammation in the synovium or the membrane that serves as a lining around the joints. On the other hand, AS causes inflammation to the enthesis, the location where the bone is inserted by a tendon. Both diseases are characterized by remissions and exacerbations.

Rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis manifest a group of similar symptoms. Both disorders involve experiencing morning stiffness, nausea, malaise, and fatigue. Though they have the same set of symptoms, RA commonly occurs in females triple in number while AS is more frequent by a third for the male group. Both diseases appear at the start of the individual’s adult life. AS starts a little earlier with its peak onset between the ages of 20 to 30 years old while RA peaks a little later in the adult life between the ages of 30 to 40 years old. Due to heart disease complications, RA appears to have a greater influence on mortality for the affected individuals unlike AS.

On the bottom line, like any other autoimmune or rheumatic diseases, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are both indiscernible conditions that have affected lives disruptively. Because of chronic pain and eventual disability, the track of an affected individual’s life is completely changed. It is therefore imperative that supportive management is necessary to alleviate the suffering from these mysterious conditions.

Summary:

1.RA mainly involves the joints of the extremities while AS is characterized by affecting the mobility of the spine and sacroiliac joints.

2.In terms of affected bony parts, AS mostly affects the axial skeleton while it rarely does for RA.

3.RA usually causes a great deal of inflammation in the synovium or the membrane that serves as a lining around the joints. On the other hand, AS causes inflammation to the enthesis, the location where the bone is inserted by a tendon.

4.RA commonly occurs in females triple in number while AS is more frequent by a third for the male group.

5.AS starts a little earlier with its peak onset between the ages of 20 to 30 years old while RA peaks a little later in the adult life between the ages of 30 to 40 years old.

6.Due to heart disease complications, RA appears to have a greater influence on mortality for the affected individuals unlike AS.


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3 Comments

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  2. suffering with A.S. for 25 years.. im now 56. no painkillers could help me. eventually I was put on Enbrel injections twice per week.. it changed my life after a few weeks.. fantastic .. my lower spine is fused and back bone is bent forward a little but im great otherwise. on this for life.. thank you.

  3. Since my twenties, I had back pain but remained athletic running, biking, skiing, etc. until the age of 59. Then my shoulders and wrists quite suddenly became so painful, I could not get my hands to my mouth. Climbing stairs was a major task and picking a newspaper from the floor was now impossible. There was no position to find sleep. The pain was relentless and there were no pain killers to give relief. Frankly, there was no quality of life. It took 9 months for a diagnosis of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Finally got on Enbrel, then on to Humira. Without this, I would have been dead years ago. So many articles relate AS with the spine, but that’s only the beginning.

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