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How is Rheumatoid Arthritis Different from Osteoarthritis?

Kunal Patel - September 10, 2018 01:45 PM

Arthritis is a broad spectrum that is used to refer to an inflammation and joint pain. There are 100 types of arthritis and some even share few common symptoms. However, it is important to understand that every arthritis has a different cause and treatment, which makes it critical to understand the difference between them. Here, we will learn the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Type of Disease

The main difference between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) is the nature of the disease.

OA is a degenerative joint disease which is a result of increased wear and tear on joints. People suffering from OA experience a breakdown of cartilage which cushion the joints, causing the bones to rub against each other and expose small nerves, causing joint pain. It generally develops in the later stages of life.

On the other hand, RA is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body attacks itself. In the bodies of people suffering from RA, the body interprets the synovium (soft lining around the joints) as a threat similar to bacteria or virus and attacks it. This causes the fluid to accumulate within the joint and the fluid backup causes pain, swelling, stiffness and inflammation around your joints. It develops in patients between the ages of 30 and 60 years old.

OA affects an estimated 27 million Americans while only 1.3 million Americans have rheumatoid arthritis. Both the diseases are more prevalent in women as compared to men.


While some arthritis symptoms may be similar, let us look at how symptoms of osteoarthritis differ from that of rheumatoid arthritis.

•    OA

This causes pain while the person moves, i.e., while walking. The pain develops gradually and worsens over time. A few symptoms include:

-    Joint pain and stiffness
-    Inflammation in hands, fingers or knees
-    Joints on one side are more affected than on the other side
-    Morning stiffness lasting fewer than 30 minutes
-    Possible spine and hip pain

•    RA

The pain comes in quickly but isn’t easy to notice. Symptoms include:

-    Joint pain, stiffness, swelling affecting multiple joints
-    Symmetrical symptoms which affect both sides of the body
-    Morning stiffness that lasts longer than 30 minutes
-    Fatigue, fever, and malaise


•    OA

Osteoarthritis is caused due to continuous wear and tear on specific joints in the body. It is a chronic condition that worsens with age. Individuals in certain jobs or sports that involve repetitive motions may also lead to developing OA. These activities place additional pressure on the joints which may continue to wear the cartilage. Moreover, the risk increases if old injuries didn’t heal properly. Lastly, there is a potential genetic risk associated with OA where it is possible to inherit cartilage deterioration.

•    RA

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown at this time. It is known that RA is triggered by an autoimmune disorder where harmful antibodies are produced which attack the healthy joint tissue in patients. The primary risk factors are thought to be genetic, hormonal, environmental and even certain lifestyles such as obesity or smoking. Since it affects patients from various backgrounds, it is difficult to pinpoint one specific cause.

Affected Body Parts

•    OA

This particularly affects the weight-bearing joints like knees and hips, neck, small finger joints and big toe.

•    RA

This can affect the entire body, however, the commonly affected areas include the wrist, hand, ankles and feet.


Unfortunately, no known cure has been developed for either form of arthritis. The main goal of current treatments is to reduce the arthritis pain, manage its symptoms and prevent further destruction of the joints. Medications like ibuprofen are used to treat both OA and RA by reducing pain and swelling. Painkillers, anti-inflammatory medications are prescribed. Exercise is also recommended and one is advised to drink a lot of water to keep the cartilages from drying up. Compression gloves are being given to patients as they relieve pain and prevent further damage.

Since rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disorder, specific drugs being prescribed which help in stopping the immune system from attacking the body and preventing further damage.

While getting relief may seem like the only thing you need, it is important to understand the root cause to determine the right kind of treatment process. It will ensure that you don’t treat OA with potentially toxic medications if they are not needed and that you don’t miss the opportunity to reverse the inflammatory component of RA. Since every RA patient eventually gets OA, it is critical to diagnose and assess the joint pain causes correctly.

Kunal is a young and passionate entrepreneur, fascinated by the workings of the human body and natural solutions for common health problems. He’s single-minded in his aim to make Copper Defence a brand that’s recognised across the globe, by partnering with global brands to make these high-tech materials easily accessible for everyone. If you’d like to get in touch, email Kunal at or visit for copper-infused clothing, pet accessories and more.

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