A 42-year-old woman presents to the clinic with a four-month history of generalized joint pain, stiffness, and swelling, especially in her hands. She states that these symptoms have made it difficult to grasp objects and has made caring for her 6 and 4-year-old children problematic. She admits to increased fatigue, but she thought it was due to her stressful job as well as being a single mother.
No significant past medical history but recalls that one of her grandmothers had “crippling” arthritis. Physical exam remarkable for bilateral ulnar deviation of her hands as well as soft, boggy proximal interphalangeal joints. The metatarsals of both of her feet also exhibited swelling and warmth. The diagnosis for this patient is rheumatoid arthritis.
Explain why patients with rheumatoid arthritis exhibit these symptoms and how it differ from osteoarthritis.