Degenerative vs. Inflammatory Arthritis: Ways They Differ

Degenerative vs. Inflammatory Arthritis: Ways They Differ

Arthritis is a common ailment that causes pain. There are, however, many types of this disorder, including degenerative arthritis and inflammatory arthritis. These conditions have some symptoms in common, so figuring out which type is affecting you can be tricky.

At Southern Pain Specialists, our team is very experienced in diagnosing and treating many types of arthritis. In this blog, Kenneth Varley, MD, explains the differences between degenerative and inflammatory arthritis.

Types of arthritis

Arthritis is a common chronic condition that affects the joints. There are actually more than 100 types of arthritis, and each affects the body in different ways and can have different symptoms. Consequently, understanding what to look for can save you a lot of pain and worry. 

Two of the main types of arthritis are degenerative arthritis and inflammatory arthritis. Either of these can affect you at any point in life, and both can be debilitating if not treated properly. 

Causes of degenerative and inflammatory arthritis

Though degenerative arthritis and inflammatory arthritis share some symptoms, they have very different causes.

Degenerative arthritis

Degenerative arthritis is also known as osteoarthritis, and it’s caused by wear and tear in a joint.

Inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis has several types, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis. Inflammatory arthritis is caused by an exaggerated immune response that attacks the joints

This causes widespread inflammation that damages the tissues within joints. Multiple joints are usually affected, and you may go through periods of remission and flare-ups.

Symptoms of degenerative and inflammatory arthritis

While degenerative and inflammatory arthritis share some symptoms, there are also a number of differences.

Common symptoms

The symptoms you experience will depend on the type and severity of arthritis you have. However, many types of arthritis have similar symptoms that mostly affect the joints. Some of the most common symptoms are the following:

  1. Pain
  2. Joint stiffness
  3. Swelling
  4. Redness 

Degenerative arthritis

With degenerative arthritis, the symptoms are more concentrated on the joints. You may also experience decreased range of motion. This can make it difficult for you to get around or perform simple tasks, such as getting dressed or bathing.

Inflammatory arthritis

Besides joint pain, inflammatory arthritis has a number of symptoms that are linked to inflammation, such as the following:

  1. Numbness or tingling
  2. Fatigue
  3. Fever
  4. Morning stiffness
  5. Trouble sleeping

You may also experience loss of appetite and weight loss with this type of arthritis. However, you won’t always have all of these symptoms, as inflammatory arthritis affects everyone differently.

Joints affected by degenerative and inflammatory arthritis

Another difference between these two types of arthritis is which joints they affect. 

Degenerative arthritis

Because degenerative arthritis comes about from overuse of joints, it typically affects larger ones, such as the knees, hips, and shoulders. Furthermore, degenerative arthritis is usually nonsymmetrical, meaning it only affects a particular joint on one side of the body.

Inflammatory arthritis

Inflammatory arthritis, on the other hand, can affect just about any joint in the body, and it often causes symptoms in multiple joints. However, it’s very common for this disorder to affect smaller joints, such as your hand joints.

Along with affecting smaller joints, inflammatory arthritis also usually affects joints symmetrically, meaning it affects the same joint on both sides of the body.