Whether it's RA or lupus, everyone's experience with autoimmunity is unique and manifests differently. In comparing the two diseases, though, one might wonder, is RA worse than lupus?
At Mymee, we work directly with people who suffer from these diseases. Although RA is often cited as the most common autoimmune disease, it's estimated that lupus affects the same number of people. 1.5 million Americans also have lupus.
When comparing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic lupus erythematosus SLE (lupus), it's essential to understand the foundation of each disease. Common symptoms in autoimmune diseases do often overlap. Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and lupus are prime examples of this, as they share several similarities.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis?
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the lining of joints. Over time, inflammation leads to joint damage and debilitating pain. Joint inflammation can also cause bone erosion and joint deformity in some cases. Damage to the lungs, heart, skin, eyes, kidneys, and blood vessels can also occur.
Rheumatoid arthritis typically first affects small joints, such as those in the hands and feet. It can spread to the wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees, and hips as RA progresses.
RA affects more than 1.3 million people in the US. It is the most common type of autoimmune arthritis. Of the people with RA, about 75% are women.
What is Lupus?
Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes pain and chronic inflammation. Lupus can affect the skin, kidneys, brain, blood cells, and heart. Although anyone can have lupus, including children and teens, women account for 90% of all cases.
Risk Factors for Lupus Include:
- Virus and bacteria
- Medications (drug-induced lupus)
- Female hormones like estrogen
- A combination of the above factors
Most people experience a mild form of lupus in which periodic symptom flare-ups are followed by periods without symptoms. In severe cases, people with lupus can have debilitating symptoms.
Similarities Between RA and Lupus Symptoms
Both lupus and rheumatoid arthritis are part of a larger category of autoimmune disease, wherein your immune system mistakenly attacks your body. Lupus and RA can each be caused by genetic and environmental components.
RA and lupus both manifest in the joints. Usually, multiple joints are involved and have pain, swelling, inflammation, and stiffness. Fatigue is common in both conditions and may sometimes be coupled with overall body weakness.
Women are statistically more likely to develop RA and lupus women than men. However, RA is equally prevalent among men and postmenopausal women.
Both diseases encompass periods of flare-ups. During flare-ups, symptoms worsen and feel less manageable. Then, during remission, symptoms return to their baseline state. Although there is no cure for lupus and RA, treatment is available for both diseases.
Both lupus and RA benefit from an individualized treatment approach to improve quality of life and reduce symptoms. Personalized treatment, including a customized diet, can be challenging without knowledgeable guidance.
Differences Between RA and Lupus
While both affect the joints, RA joint pain is usually worse in the morning, while Lupus pain tends to be consistent.
RA joint pain can lead to joint deformities, whereas joint pain and stiffness with lupus do not cause deformities.
Lupus patients are sensitive to the sun, which often triggers a butterfly-shaped red or brown skin rash over the cheese and nose. The rash can often flare following exposure to sunlight. Photosensitivity is not common in RA.
Lupus attacks multiple tissues and sometimes organs of the body, most commonly the kidneys. Because lupus can have multi-system organ involvement, it is the leading cause of death in young women aged 19-49 in the US.
RA targets the lining of the joints and rarely has organ involvement in the progression of this disease. RA does not lead to death.
- Lupus can have a rash associated with it, whereas RA may have redness only in the specific joints that are inflamed.
To treat lupus and RA symptoms, it can be helpful to look closely at the potential individual triggers for flares. Lupus and RA are autoimmune diseases. This means there is an imbalance wherein the body attacks itself as if infected by a virus or bacteria.
So, is RA Worse Than Lupus?
Neither RA nor lupus is "worse" than the other. They are different conditions and require treatment accordingly. Lupus and RA patients can have a mild or severe form of either disease. Because lupus is a cause of mortality, effective treatment, including inflammation management, is direr than RA, which already has effective treatments.
Can Mymee Help Symptoms of Lupus? Symptoms of RA?
At Mymee, we provide a unique treatment path for each client. With Mymee, you'll track your symptoms and other day-to-day factors. Tracking enables a certified health coach to determine what's behind a person's periods of flare-ups versus remission.
In Mymee's history of supporting patients with autoimmunity, we have found that certain foods increase inflammation and, therefore, symptoms. Importantly, triggers in food and environment are unique to the individual and are not applicable across diseases.
Mymee's Care Team also provides nutritional support, stress management techniques, and supplement recommendations as building blocks for good health.
If you think Mymee could be a good fit for your lupus or RA symptom management, get started with a health coach.