Pretty much everyone knows somebody with arthritis. Less well known is lupus, a condition that affects roughly 1.5 million people in the United States. While they are often confused with each other, there are major differences between these two chronic conditions.
A Closer Look
In short, arthritis typically develops due to one of two reasons – the inflammation of tissues adjacent the body’s joints, or the erosion of cartilage between the joint’s bones. The former condition is known as rheumatoid arthritis, while the latter is commonly referred to as osteoarthritis.
In comparison, lupus can largely be blamed on inflammation; it is estimated that two out of three lupus sufferers experience this symptom in their joints. It should be stressed, however, that lupus isn’t a form of arthritis. Rather, arthritis is one of the symptoms associated with lupus.
What makes lupus so challenging to treat is its chameleon-like nature, as it mimics a number of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis. In fact, lupus symptoms can differ significantly from one person to the next. For example, some people might experience dry eyes, dry mouth and weight loss. Others might complain of breathing difficulties and chest pains. Other possible symptoms include tiredness and numbness/tingling in the hands.
Given its wide-ranging effects on the body, diagnosing lupus is frequently a difficult task. Confirming the presence of this autoimmune disease might take several years.
Fixing the Problem
Though they have several key differences, both rheumatoid arthritis and lupus share one unfortunate trait – neither are curable. On the positive side, there are treatments that can mitigate the symptoms of these conditions.
For rheumatoid arthritis, a doctor could initially attempt to alleviate joint pain with common non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Should these prove ineffective, other potential options include corticosteroids and drugs that attempt to curb the effects of an overzealous immune system.
NSAIDs and corticosteroids may also be employed to counteract Lupus. More powerful drugs that can be prescribed to lupus patients include chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, two medicines originally developed to treat malaria.