Diseases confused with RA
There are other diseases that can be initially confused with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), because they have similar symptoms. That's why it's so important to speak to a doctor about your symptoms. Some of these other diseases are:
Fibromyalgia is more common in women than in men. People with this condition have widespread pain in the muscles and tissue around the bones, usually in the back, shoulders and neck. Unlike with RA, there is little to no inflammation in the joints. The absence of joint pain probably means that it is not RA, but only a doctor will know for sure. The cause of fibromyalgia is not currently known.
Psoriatic arthritis develops only in people with psoriasis, a chronic disease that causes red and white scale-like patches on the skin. Like RA, psoriatic arthritis is caused when the immune system creates too much inflammation in the body. In addition to causing mild to severe joint pain, psoriatic arthritis can also cause swelling of the fingers and toes. Psoriatic arthritis can also lead to joint deformity.
Lupus is another disease that involves the immune system. It can cause inflammation and pain. Lupus can damage organs such as the kidney. People with lupus may also have joint pain and a certain kind of skin rash. Generally, people with RA will not have this particular type of rash.
Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria carried by ticks. People bitten by these ticks can become infected. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue and a skin rash. The infection can cause inflammation of the joints if left untreated. Lyme disease can be treated successfully with FDA-approved antibiotics.
Bursitis is caused by inflammation and pain of tissue near the joints, especially in the shoulder or elbow. This can frequently be caused by overuse. Bursitis can often be confused with RA, which causes inflammation and pain in the joints themselves.
Gout is more common in men than in women. In gout, high amounts of uric acid, a waste product in the body, form crystals in the joints. In people with this condition, the body isn't able to get rid of the extra uric acid. This leads to inflammation and extreme pain, often in the big toe. Gout generally doesn't cause inflammation in the hands, but RA frequently does.
Sign up for RA newsletters
Get newsletters that cover important RA topics, from pain management to treatment to tips for healthy living and more.
Prepare for your rheumatologist visit
Your personal R.A.P. Sheet can help prepare you for a productive discussion with the rheumatologist.
Glossary Of Terms
Occurs when the immune system defends the body against harmful events. More...
A doctor who specializes in diseases that affect the joints. More...
A long-term condition where the body's immune system attacks not only foreign substances like bacteria and viruses, but also attacks the body itself. More...