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Can You Have Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Together?

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Updated January 04, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Question: Can You Have Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis Together?
Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis are the most well-known types of arthritis. Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis -- affecting about 21 million Americans. Rheumatoid arthritis is the most disabling or crippling type -- affecting about 1.3 million Americans. The two types of arthritis are distinctive in their similarities and their differences. Is it possible to have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time?
Answer: The short answer is yes -- it is possible to have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis at the same time. For example, your knee may be affected by rheumatoid arthritis but your spine may have degenerative changes that support the diagnosis of osteoarthritis.

Two types of osteoarthritis exist. Idiopathic osteoarthritis, which has no known cause. Idiopathic osteoarthritis may affect just one or two joints or it may affect three or more joints. Secondary osteoarthritis, which is caused by an underlying condition. The underlying condition may be joint injury, rheumatoid arthritis or other joint conditions, or another medical condition (e.g., obesity).

Symptoms, findings from a physical exam, blood tests and x-rays all help distinguish between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. As for treatment, pain medication and other pain management techniques will help with both conditions. However, drugs that are specifically for rheumatoid arthritis, such as biologic drugs, will have no effect on osteoarthritis.

The Bottom Line

It is possible to only have osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis, but it is also possible to have both conditions at the same time.

Source:

Patient information. Osteoarthritis symptoms and diagnosis. UpToDate. Kalunian KC et al. September 2009.
http://www.uptodate.com/online/content/topic.do?topicKey=arthriti/2266

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