Multiple Sclerosis Vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis are both chronic and crippling diseases that affect the quality of a patient's life. Rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints, while multiple sclerosis affects the brain and spinal cord.

A woman with arthritic hands is cutting some fabric. Credit: Gitanna/iStock/Getty Images


Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms include morning stiffness lasting more than an hour, fatigue, muscle aches, a poor appetite and weakness. In some cases, it can lead to hand and feet deformities, as well as problems moving. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis include muscle spasms, loss of balance, constipation, weakness, double vision and urinary incontinence.


Rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis are both autoimmune diseases, when the body's own immune cells attack it. Specifically, the immune cells attack the joints in rheumatoid arthritis, and attack the nerve fibers in multiple sclerosis.


MedlinePlus says that multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis typically affect more women than men. People stricken with multiple sclerosis are usually between 20 and 40 years of age. However, both diseases can strike anybody at any age.


Both multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis can be treated with medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and antimalarial medications can treat rheumatoid arthritis, while interferons, antidepressants, methotrexate and cyclophosphamide can treat multiple sclerosis. Both diseases can benefit from physical therapy sessions.


MedlinePlus indicates that rheumatoid arthritis sufferers' average life expectancy is shortened by three to seven years. Multiple sclerosis sufferers typically return to normal between attacks but eventually become wheelchair bound.

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