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Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

  • Publish Date : 2009/05/31 - (Rev. 2019/02/09)
  • Author : Disabled World
  • Contact : www.disabled-world.com


Osteoarthritis often accompanies aging and rheumatoid arthritis can occur in any age group and is also found in children and adults.

Main Document

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Arthritis is a broad term used to describe inflammation of the joints. There are many different kinds of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis have got some similarities as well as differences. Their exact causes are not known.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common chronic condition of the joints, affecting approximately 27 million Americans (Arthritis Foundation. Osteoarthritis. arthritis.org/about-arthritis/types/osteoarthritis/).

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the third most common type of arthritis, affecting approximately 1.3 million Americans (American College of Rheumatology. Prevalence statistics. rheumatology.org/Learning-Center/Statistics/Prevalence-Statistics).

While osteoarthritis often accompanies aging, rheumatoid arthritis can occur in any age group and is also found in children and adults.

  • Osteoarthritis can be commonly found in people around the age group of 60. The intensity of pain and degree of the problem varies according to their lifestyle.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis might develop at any age, although during remission period, there might be a complete lack of symptoms of pain.

Major Signs of Difference Between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

1) Pain is a common characteristic in both forms of arthritis.

Pain is also one of the major distinguishing factors which doctors use for diagnosis and to identify the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

In osteoarthritis, the pain might occur in only one joint, for example in the right knee.

On the other hand, in rheumatoid arthritis the pain is generally found occurring on the joints on both sides of the body. For example, there might be pain in both knees.

2) "Wear and tear" of the cartilage cushions is the primary reason for osteoarthritis.

The cartilage cushions act as shock absorbers that prevent the bones of the joint from rubbing together. When this cartilage is damaged due to overuse or injury, it causes osteoarthritis and leads to inflammation and swelling in the joints.

In rheumatoid arthritis, the pain and inflammation in the joints take place well before any damage occurs in the cartilage cushions. In fact, frequent occurrence of chronic inflammation causes damage to the cartilage and intense pain.

3) Factors that might lead to the occurrence of osteoarthritis are;

  • Obesity
  • Joint injury
  • Overuse of joints
  • Heredity

On the other hand, obesity might aggravate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, but it does not play any role in developing of that condition in the first place.

4) One of the major difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis is that osteoarthritis affects only the joints, while rheumatoid arthritis can also affect many other parts in the body.

5) What is the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis in terms of treatment?

In rheumatoid arthritis, drugs that suppress immune system activity are often prescribed; whereas they are not required in osteoarthritis. However, anti-inflammatory drugs are common mode of treatment in both forms of arthritis.

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