Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are two different abnormal conditions but both are considered autoimmune diseases that attack the body in a similar manner, making one believe that he or she may have lupus when in fact it’s rheumatoid arthritis, and vice versa. An autoimmune disease is a malfunctioning of the immune system in which this system produces auto-antibodies that attack one’s own tissues and organs instead of simply producing antibodies to attack antigens such as viruses, bacteria and other invaders.
Two of the several types of autoimmune diseases are rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes swelling, stiffness, pain and loss of function in the joints. This illness is most common in the wrist and fingers, but affects any joint. More females than males acquire rheumatoid arthritis, and affects individuals between ages 25 and 55. Rheumatoid arthritis can also affect other body parts such as the eyes, mouth and lungs. The cause of this disease is unknown, but genes, environment and hormones might contribute to the disease.
Lupus which is also known as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) takes on different forms and can affect any part of the body, but usually attacks the skin, joints, the heart, blood, kidneys, brain and the lungs. Those from Africa, Asia, and those of Native American descent are more likely to develop lupus than are Caucasians.
Symptoms and Treatments
The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis are morning joint stiffness, swelling or some fluid around several joints at the same time swelling in the wrist, hand, or finger joints. Same joints affected on both sides of your body. Firm lumps under the skin (rheumatoid nodules). X-rays are helpful in diagnosing RA, to provide a baseline for comparison later as the disease progresses. An MRI or ultrasound may also be done to help detect joint damage and inflammation.
There is still no known cure for rheumatoid arthritis. Treatment is done just to reduce joint inflammation and pain, prevent joint damage, and maximize joint function. Aggressive treatment should be started as soon as possible. Treatment includes a combination of medication and exercises to strengthen muscles around the joints. Surgery may also be included. Treatment is tailored to the individual but should take into account the patient’s age, affected joints, and the progression of the disease.
Common initial and chronic complaints of people with lupus include fever, malaise, joint pains, myalgias, fatigue, and temporary loss of cognitive abilities. Because they are so often seen with other diseases, these signs and symptoms are not part of the diagnostic criteria for lupus.
Treatment for lupus will depend on how severe the symptoms are, whether organs are involved, and if your daily life is affected. A significant reduction in your daily stress will help you control lupus symptoms. Medications can’t simply cure lupus but they can control symptoms and possibly prevent organ damage. Surgery is only an option when lupus has seriously damaged the kidneys. Other treatment such as relaxation therapies are considered to greatly improve quality of life of the patient.
Rheumatoid arthritis and lupus are alike in many ways but a visit to your doctor and blood tests can confirm what disorder you are suffering from.