Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-What’s the Difference?

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-What’s the Difference?

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Arthritis is frequently the first diagnosis when you experience unusual pain, swelling, or soreness in joints. When little tasks like opening a jar, going up the stairs, and holding groceries become difficult and cause pain in the hands, feet, or knees. There are five types of Arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis are the two most common of them. Although they have some similarities, there is a significant difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms. Both require a separate course of action to be treated and therefore a precise diagnosis is required. This article will make you walk through the difference, symptoms, causes, and treatment of Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis:


Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease in which the tissue between the joints starts to degrade and the connected bones start to reshape. These alterations typically take time and slowly get worse. Patients with OA feel pain, stiffness, and inflammation in joints and lose the capacity to perform everyday tasks.

Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease. When the immune system involuntarily starts destroying the healthy cells of the body causing inflammation in the affected areas. RA primarily targets joints specifically the hands, feet, or knees. Tissue damage causes long-term pain, loss of balance, or even disability. RA can also harm other organs including lungs, heart, and eyes as well as other tissues of the body.

Osteoarthritis Vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis-Symptoms:

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis both share multiple similarities when it comes to symptoms. Below are some most common symptoms of both types of arthritis:

Signs & Symptoms of Osteoarthritis:

Symptoms like joint pain gradually develop in Osteoarthritis as the cartilage between the bone tears and the bones rub against each other. The signs and symptoms of Osteoarthritis include;
  • Joint Pain
  • Muscle Stiffness/Soreness
  • Swelling
  • Loss of Flexibility
  • Decreased Mobility
  • Grating Sensations
  • Bone Outgrowth
  • Lumps Under Skin

Signs & Symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms vary between the patients. In some patients, symptoms get worse over time while others experience improvement. In addition to pain and swelling, some unusual symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis include;
  • Fever
  • Weakness
  • Loss of Weight
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Redness around the Affected Areas
  • Pain in Multiple Joints especially in small joints of hands, fingers, and toes
  • Swelling and Stiffness in Multiple Joints
  • Similar Symptoms on both sides of the body (Left and Right)

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-Causes:

Our joints have soft tissues called cartilage which cushions the joint to prevent bones from rubbing against each other and allows smooth movement. These protective tissues are damaged by Arthritis. But the causes of this damage are not the same for Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Causes of Osteoarthritis:

In Osteoarthritis, the protective tissues gradually deteriorate and bones start to slide against each other. Activities that put a strain on the joints such as tough movements during sports and continuous movement of joints cause the wearing down of cartilage. In addition, cartilage depletion forms bony outgrowths called bone spurs that make it difficult for the joint to move smoothly and also cause pain and stiffness.

Causes of Rheumatoid Arthritis:

An autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis happens when a person’s immune system accidentally starts destroying healthy joint tissues. Enzymes are released that damage the joint cushions (cartilage), resulting in mobility discomfort, inflammation, and stiffness.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-Joints Affected:

Arthritis damages the joints but the affected joints may differ in Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis.

Affected Joints in RA:

Rheumatoid Arthritis typically starts with the smaller joints. Joints in your fingers are likely to start hurting and getting swollen and stiff. RA, if left untreated, over time begins to affect larger joints including knees, shoulders, ankles, etc. Rheumatoid Arthritis symptoms appear simultaneously on both sides of the body i.e. left and right knee, left and right shoulder, left and right hand, etc.

Affected Joints in OA:

Symptoms of OA are not typically symmetrical. For instance, you might only feel pain or stiffness in the right knee, hand, or shoulder. Joints in the hands and fingers are most likely to be affected in OA. In some cases, OA also spread to joints in the spine and hip.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-Treatment Approach:

The main treatment objectives of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis include decreasing the pain and inflammation, and increasing function and mobility while minimizing the damage to the joints. A medical professional will address these objectives depending on the needs of the patient. Both OA and RA can typically be treated with anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid drugs, however, corticosteroid usage is restricted. Patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis are often given medication that suppresses the immune system activity to prevent joint damage.

Rheumatoid Arthritis Vs. Osteoarthritis-Risk Factors:

On average, 27 million people are affected by Arthritis across America and Canada. Both types of Arthritis usually develop in middle age but Osteoarthritis can occur at any age due to joint injuries and excess use of a joint. Arthritis may run in families. A person is at a higher risk of getting Arthritis if his parents, grandparents, or siblings have it. Deformed joints, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and gout are some other risk factors for Arthritis. Women are 3 times more likely to get Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Live-In Care for Arthritis:

Arthritis greatly impacts the quality of life. Patients with Arthritis get mobility issues along with severe pain in joints. Seniors with Arthritis may need in-home caregiving. Live-in Caregivers provide expert Arthritis and Injury care. Live in Caregiver provide physical and emotional assistance as well as light housekeeping and help with mobility, exercise, and everyday activities.

Bottom Line:

Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis both affect the joints. Both types of Arthritis can be treated to reduce the symptoms like pain, inflammation, and swelling. If you are suffering from prolonged joint pain or muscle stiffness, you should immediately speak with your doctor. A doctor can diagnose the right cause and can treat it accordingly. In the case of Arthritis, a doctor can help you minimize the joint damage, pain, and soreness.

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