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How Do I Know If I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis Or Osteoarthritis?

How Do I Know If I Have Rheumatoid Arthritis Or Osteoarthritis?

Arthritis can be regarded as a type of joint inflammation. Both osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis attack the musculoskeletal tissues in various ways. Currently, these diseases are common and it is necessary to have a quick intervention to minimize hampering of daily life quality. While rheumatoid arthritis is a kind of autoimmune disease, osteoarthritis can be regarded as a degenerative disorder.(1)(2)

Distinguishing Between Osteoarthrosis & Rheumatoid Arthritis

There are several ways to distinguish between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The most common way to distinguish rheumatoid arthritis from other forms of arthritis is by using an X-Ray. 

These two conditions can be easily diagnosed with a clear history, but X-ray, MRI and blood tests can be used to confirm the diagnosis. Deterioration of joints, lack of cartilage and spurs can be seen on a radiograph of a patient with osteoarthritis. ESR, CPR, anti-CPC can be increased in rheumatoid arthritis while there will be no changes in osteoarthritis.(5)

Differences In Symptoms Between Osteoarthrosis & Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthrosis: Stiffness, pain in joints, and tenderness around the knees, arms, and fingers; one side has been hit harder than the other; stiffness in the morning for over half an hour. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Pain in many joints, tenderness as well as stiffness; symmetric symptoms; morning stiffness that becomes better in 30 minutes; extra-articular manifestations include malaise, fever, weight loss, and fatigue.

Osteoarthritis: It is called arthrosis as well and this degenerative condition is the most common arthritis type. This way the cartilage layer protecting the joint edges gets lost over time. As a cushioning pillow, the absence of these cartilages may cause continuous friction, which occurs when the bones rub against each other, which ultimately leads to a worn-out joint. Usually, joints of the knee, spine, arms, and hips are mostly affected, but it can attack all the joints present in the human body. 

Elderly, obesity, joint injuries, genetic conditions, deformities of bones (irregular/defective cartilage), prolonged weight transfer and weight lifting are prevalent risk factors. Women are at greater risk than men. Most often it affects individuals over the age of 40, but it is also observed in children after accidents and injuries. 

Osteoarthrosis must be detected as early as practicable, and timely treatments should be performed, as this will lead life to become unstable as people are no longer able to continue normal work.(1)

Diagnosing Osteoarthritis

Your specialist should take a detailed medical history and perform an in-depth diagnostic examination to detect symptoms of inflammation including discomfort, tenderness, stiffness, redness, swelling, and problems in joint moving. The X-ray in a combination with MRI (or normal X-ray) is done to further verify it. Blood examinations (ESR) and an evaluation of joint fluids may also be useful to eliminate certain disorders having similar symptoms (gout or RA).

While osteoarthritis is not completely healed, improvements in symptoms and pharmacological treatments have been found to help with manifestations.(3)

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Rheumatoid arthritis can be called as a persistent inflammatory disease defined by severe discomfort, pain, joint rigidity, tenderness, and swelling of the joints. It may affect any area of the body symmetrically (smaller joints are affected initially). This may contribute to extra-articular disorders that involve the nerves, skin, eyes, blood, and lungs.

Although the precise mechanism of action of rheumatoid arthritis is not apparent, it develops as an autoimmune disease producing antibodies against the body cells.

Given the significant prevalence of women, it generally affects individuals in their 20s. Most rheumatoid arthritis patients experience acute joint pain, soreness, swelling, and lameness in joints throughout the body, slowly progressing in a few weeks. Lack of appetite, pain in the body, feverish feeling, weight loss, redness of eyes, anemia are common in RA. Severe pain in joints in the morning is frequent. But, unlike osteoarthritis, it typically recovers in half an hour.(2)(4)

Diagnosing Rheumatoid Arthritis: Doctors can diagnose this condition by assessing the patient’s medical and family history. X-ray and MRI scans will confirm the condition, as well as blood tests (ESR, CRP, and anti-CCP). 

The RA recovery program mainly involves improvements in the way of living and symptomatic medicine. 


  1. Newberry SJ, FitzGerald J, SooHoo NF, et al. Treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee: an update review. 2017.
  2. Firestein GS, McInnes IB. Immunopathogenesis of rheumatoid arthritis. Immunity. 2017;46(2):183-196.
  3. Chen D, Shen J, Zhao W, et al. Osteoarthritis: toward a comprehensive understanding of pathological mechanism. Bone research. 2017;5(1):1-13.
  4. Burmester GR, Pope JE. Novel treatment strategies in rheumatoid arthritis. The Lancet. 2017;389(10086):2338-2348.
  5. Fernández‐Ávila DG, Ruiz ÁJ, Gil F, et al. The effect of an educational intervention, based on clinical simulation, on the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Musculoskeletal care. 2018;16(1):147-151.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:May 1, 2020

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