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What’s The Difference In Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis


The word arthritis simply means inflammation of the joint. The reasons for that inflammation, however, varies. In the case of osteoarthritis, the cause is wear and tear. RA is an auto-immune condition, meaning that the immune system, normally there to protect us, is attacking healthy the joints.

Until I was diagnosed, I thought that arthritis was just something that old people get.

Until you or someone close to you is diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis , unfortunately, this is most peoples perception of the disease. This is, at least in part, because many people, including some healthcare professionals, still refer to osteoarthritis as arthritis. So whats the difference?

One third of people over the age of 45 in the UK have sought treatment for osteoarthritis, whereas RA affects a much smaller number, at around 1% of the UK population.

There are also differences between the joints affected by these two conditions. Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect joints symmetrically, most commonly the small joints of the hands and feet. Multiple joints may be affected, sometimes simultaneously, whereas OA will be isolated to individual joints. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower parts of the spine, and the finger joints closest to the nailbeds, both of which are areas of the body rarely affected in RA. RA can affect different joints at different times, whereas osteoarthritis doesnt come and go, although pain and stiffness can come and go.

Treatment Of Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

The good news is, there are some ways to treat both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. But, with that being said, theres no cure for either type of arthritis and joint damage is irreversible. Instead, the treatment of both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis focuses on:

  • Reducing pain in your joints
  • Improving the function of your joints
  • Minimising further damage to your joints

Generally, anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids are used to help deal with the inflammation of your joints caused by arthritis. These should also help with the pain associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

When it comes to osteoarthritis, other pain-relieving treatments are often used such as:

  • Pain-reducing creams

What Are The Symptoms And Signs Of Rheumatoid And Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Although rheumatoid arthritis can have many different symptoms, joints are always affected. Rheumatoid arthritis almost always affects the joints of the hands , wrists, elbows, knees, ankles, and/or feet. The larger joints, such as the shoulders, hips, and jaw, may be affected. The vertebrae of the neck are sometimes involved in people who have had the disease for many years. Usually at least two or three different joints are involved on both sides of the body, often in a symmetrical pattern. The usual joint symptoms include the following:

  • Stiffness: The joint does not move as well as it once did. Its range of motion may be reduced. Typically, stiffness is most noticeable in the morning and improves later in the day.
  • Inflammation: Red, tender, and warm joints are the hallmarks of inflammation. Many joints are typically inflamed .
  • Swelling: The area around the affected joint is swollen and puffy.
  • Nodules: These are hard bumps that appear on or near the joint. They often are found near the elbows. They are most noticeable on the part of the joint that juts out when the joint is flexed.
  • Pain: Pain in rheumatoid arthritis has several sources. Pain can come from inflammation or swelling of the joint and surrounding tissues or from working the joint too hard. The intensity of the pain varies among individuals.

These symptoms may keep someone from being able to carry out normal activities. General symptoms include the following:


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Ra Vs Oa: Clinical Manifestations

RA symptoms have a rather rapid onset where the condition can worsen in a matter of weeks. On the other hand, OA symptoms slowly develop and gradually worsen over a long period of time.

RA symptoms affect joints all the over the body including hands, fingers, elbows, knees, and hips. Meanwhile, OA frequently affects the small finger joints and thumb, as well as the knees. RA always affects multiple joints on both sides of the body, whereas OA may only affect one particular joint or area of the body.

At the onset of RA, symptoms like fatigue, fever, weight loss, and loss of appetite are indicative of the diseases development. OA doesnt produce these types of systemic symptoms as it is considered a local disease.

RA commonly produces symmetrical symptoms, meaning both sides of the body are affected similarly. OA is based entirely on wear and tear of individual joints.

RA causes prolonged morning stiffness lasting greater than 30 minutes. OA patients may feel morning stiffness, but it generally subsides within the first 30 minutes.

Here is a summary comparison between RA and OA symptoms:

RA Symptoms:

  • Joint pain, stiffness, swelling affecting multiple joints
  • Symmetrical symptoms affecting both sides of the body
  • Morning stiffness lasting longer than 30 minutes
  • Systemic symptoms like fatigue, fever, and malaise

OA Symptoms:

Explain The Pain Is It Osteoarthritis Or Rheumatoid Arthritis


If opening jars becomes more difficult because of painful hands, or if climbing stairs produces pain in your knees, “arthritis” is often the first thing that comes to mind. The two most common forms of arthritisosteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritiscan cause similar aches and pains, but there are a few key differences between them. For example:

Onset. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage wears away. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years.

Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis affecting 27 million Americans. Many people believe it’s a crippling and inevitable part of growing old. But things are changing. Treatments are better, and plenty of people age well without much arthritis. If you have osteoarthritis, you can take steps to protect your joints, reduce discomfort, and improve mobility all of which are detailed in this report. If you don’t have osteoarthritis, the report offers strategies for preventing it.

Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an inflammatory condition in which your immune system attacks the tissues in your joints. It causes pain and stiffness that worsen over several weeks or a few months. And joint pain isn’t always the first sign of rheumatoid arthritissometimes it begins with “flu-like” symptoms of fatigue, fever, weakness, and minor joint aches.

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What Is The Difference Between Osteoarthritis And Other Forms Of Autoimmune Arthritis Such As Rheumatoid Arthritis

17 Mar 2021

Although symptoms of the different forms of arthritis can appear similar it is important to distinguish between them to ensure appropriate treatment can be given. There are a few key differences that can distinguish osteoarthritis from other forms such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Onset Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage wears away and is primarily a degenerative joint condition. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years which is why age is a risk factor for osteoarthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis tends to have a more rapid onset occurring at any age. As the immune system attacks the tissue in the joints the pain and stiffness experienced usually worsen over weeks or a few months. Additionally, other symptoms such as fatigue, fever and weakness might precede the actual joint pain.
  • Location Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both affect the hands. However, osteoarthritis frequently affects the joint closest to the tip of the finger, whereas rheumatoid arthritis usually spares this joint. Rheumatoid arthritis can appear in any joint, its most regular targets are the hands, wrists, and feet.
  • Article Author

    Both Rheumatoid Arthritis And Osteoarthritis Cause Joint Pain And Stiffness But Their Causes Treatments And Age Of Diagnosis Are Different

    Most people know the basics of arthritis: Its a condition that affects your joints and leaves you with unwelcome aches and pains. Its a common condition23 percent of all adults in the U.S. have arthritis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .

    The thing is, while there are lots of similarities between the 100+ musculoskeletal conditions that fall under the arthritis umbrella, each type comes with its own set of symptoms, challenges, and treatment options. If you want to reduce symptoms and stop arthritis from interfering with your life, its critical to know which type you have.

    Two types of arthritis that are often confused are rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Yes, they both cause joint pain, stiffness, and movement restrictions, but their causes and treatments are very different. Doctors can tell which one you have by taking a thorough patient history, assessing your symptoms, and looking at scans like X-rays and MRIs. As a patient, it can be a little trickier to know whats going on.

    Here, experts explain the key differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, including risk factors, symptoms, triggers, and treatment options.

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    Can Any Other Tests Show The Difference Between Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Yes. Depending on what your exam and X-rays show, your provider might order blood tests, too. Because RA is an inflammatory, autoimmune disease, there are certain things to look for in the blood. These include markers of inflammation and autoantibodies. They are not present in OA.

    Additionally, if you have swelling in a large joint , your provider might need to remove some fluid and send it for testing. This can also give clues to whether its RA or OA.

    What Are The Differences Between Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

    How to Remember Rheumatoid vs. Osteoarthritis Hand Joint Involvement

    The main difference between these two types of arthritis is the cause of the joint pain and symptoms. Osteoarthritis is mainly due to the mechanical wear-and-tear placed on the joints, and it happens over the course of ones life. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, is an autoimmune disease that attacks the joints.


    Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. It is a degenerative disease and is mainly caused by aging. However, obesity can also cause it and make it worse. Carrying extra weight puts more stress and strain on your joints, and the extra fat tissue produces proteins that can trigger a harmful inflammatory response in your joints.

    With the development of OA, the cartilage at the ends of your bones deteriorates from wear and tear. Cartilage is a protective cushion that helps bones in joints move and glide smoothly. With the loss of this protective tissue, bone begins to grind against bone.This leads to pain, stiffness, tenderness, loss of range of motion, and a grating sensation in the joint. Common joints affected include knees, kip, and hands.

    Your arthritis doctor can diagnosis the condition through X-rays and MRI imaging. Blood tests may also be performed to help provide a more complete diagnosis. Unfortunately, the damage from OA cant be reversed. However, pain can be effectively managed through treatments such as exercise, physical therapy, surgery, cortisone injections, medication, and lifestyle changes.

    Rheumatoid Arthritis

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    The Symptoms Of Oa And Ra

    Many of the elemental symptoms of RA and OA are the same. They include: painful joints morning stiffness limited range of motion warmth or tenderness in the affected area.

    However, they have many differences, and each of them has its own set of symptoms.

    The symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis often attacks several joints at one time. It is a systemic disease, so it can affect your entire body too. It can damage the organs, the respiratory system and the cardiovascular system. Its characteristic for RA that the symptoms are symmetrical so if you have RA in one hip, you will have it also in another.

    Pain, stiffness, and swelling. Pain can be very unbearable. Stiffness is usually experienced in the morning and can last more than 1 hour. In some cases, prolonged morning stiffness is actually the first sign of RA.

    Low-grade fever, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches or anemia. Joint pain isnt always the first sign of rheumatoid arthritis. It can also begin with flu-like symptoms.

    Inflammation. You can notice the redness on the skin or warmth in the joints. The inflammation can lead to permanent, irreversible joint damage if its not properly managed.

    Bumps or nodules. People in advanced stages of RA may notice hard lumps, called rheumatoid nodules, underneath the skin near joints.

    The symptoms of osteoarthritis

    Swelling and warming. This is common after prolonged inactivity.

    How Physiotherapy Can Help Treat Arthritis

    Physiotherapy can also help with the treatment of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, mainly by helping patients practice healthy exercise habits to lose excess weight.

    As we previously mentioned, obesity and being overweight are risk factors for the onset of osteoarthritis. But it also negatively affects the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis as well. Carrying excess weight puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on your joints. So, working to lose that weight helps with pain management and preserves your joints.

    Still, even if you dont have any excess weight to lose, exercising not only strengthens your muscles but strengthens your bones as well. Long story short, creating a regular habit of working out helps your body to support itself, taking a lot of pressure out of your joints.

    Physiotherapists can also work with you to improve posture, improve the ergonomics of your home and office, and can help you resolve any habitual patterns that may be causing undue harm to particular joints.

    In short, working with a physiotherapist can do wonders for both preventing osteoarthritis, but also to treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

    Interested in working with one of our physiotherapists to reduce joint pain, strengthen your body, and even prevent arthritis as much as possible?

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    Main Difference Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Arthritis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the joints.Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are two disease types which are known to affect the musculoskeletal system in several ways. Their prevalence in the modern society is quite high, but with timely interventions, the negative impact on the quality of life can be eliminated. The main difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is that osteoarthritis is a degenerative, wear and tear type disorder whereas rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition.

    This article explains,

    Definition, Cause, Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

    2. What is Rheumatoid Arthritis Definition, Cause, Risk Factors, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

    3. What is the difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Treatment Of Oa And Ra

    What Is the Difference between Osteoarthritis and ...

    How Osteoarthritis is Treated

    Unfortunately, osteoarthritis cannot be reversed or treated. We offer various treatments and pain relievers to help patients with OA manage unpleasant symptoms.

    • Intra-articular injections: Injections of corticosteroids, hyaluronic acid, BOTOX® or platelet-rich plasma in the joints can help to relieve pain in the joints. These injections can provide the missing cushion or padding that the cartilage once provided before it degenerated.
    • Physical therapy: Because OA weakens the joints and muscles, physical therapy can help to strengthen the affected joints. Similarly, pain management classes can help patients to minimize the symptoms of OA.
    • Pain-relieving medications: Various medications can be taken to relieve the symptoms of OA, dull the pain and discomfort, and reduce swelling. These medications include Tylenol® and NSAIDs .

    How Rheumatoid Arthritis is Treated

    There is unfortunately no treatment to reverse rheumatoid arthritis either. We can provide various medications along with therapy to help patients manage the symptoms of RA.

    • Disease-modifying medications: Various medications, known as DMARDs , can be taken to either slow the progression of RA or stop the progression entirely. These treatments can save the joints from further damage.

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    Oa Treatments Are Largely About Lifestyle And Relieving Pain

    Two of the most important treatments for OA are exercise and weight loss, says Soo Kim, M.D., medical director of Johns Hopkins Musculoskeletal Center in Baltimore. By strengthening the muscles surrounding the joint, more stress gets distributed onto those muscles, and less of it lands on the joint, says Dr. Kim.

    To manage the pain, acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help. Topical agents can be applied over the joint. And for severe pain, steroid or hyaluronic acid injections may help, Dr. Kim says.

    So What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis. It can cause joint pain, swelling, and damage. RA happens when an individuals immune system is not working properly and attacking the lining of the joints. It most often occurs in the hands, knees, or ankles, but it has also been shown to effect other parts of the body such as the eyes, heart, and lungs. RA usually develops in middle age for a person and is more common in women. You are also more likely to develop RA if you have a family member with it.

    Similar to osteoarthritis, there are several side effects that you may experience with RA:

    • Tender, warm, swollen joints
    • Fatigue, fever, loss of appetite
    • Joints on both sides are affected

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    Ra Starts In The Hands And Feet Then Hits Larger Joints

    RA starts most often in the small joints of the hands or feet, and later spreads to larger joints like knees, ankles, elbows, hips, shoulders, or the neck. In the hands, RA may target the wrist or finger knuckles . In the feet, it often occurs in the joints connecting feet to toes. Meanwhile, RA never involves the spine, except for the cervical spine , he adds. Another telltale sign of RA: Its usually symmetrical, affecting the same joint on both sides of the body.

    What’s The Difference Between Ra And Oa

    Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis: Whatâs the difference?

    There are common misconceptions when it comes to understanding what’s the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The major differences are that osteoarthritis is associated with age and presents degenerative changes, while rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease and commonly affects younger people specifically women under the age of 40.

    Because one is linked to aging and the other to an autoimmune disease, the treatment between the two will differ. For rheumatoid arthritis, the medication prescribed will focus on suppressing the immune system, but in osteoarthritis, treatment mainly concentrates on managing the pain.

    There are also differences in the pattern of symptoms and affected joints. In rheumatoid arthritis, the small and large joints are affected on both sides of the body, for example both hands or both wrists. In osteoarthritis, the symptoms typically start on one side of the body and may or may not spread. The symptoms are gradual and commonly restricted to one specific set of joints, for example the finger joints or, the weight-bearing joints such as the knees or hips.

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