Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Worth Knowing

Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis are two types of arthritis and they both differ from each other significantly. The former one is the most common type of arthritis while the latter one is recognized as the most crippling or disabling type of arthritis. More about the differences between these two types of arthritis will be mentioned in the following arrays of the article.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Worth Knowing

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Basic Differences

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis which involves the wearing away of the cartilage that caps the bones in an individual’s joints. This is also known as degenerative joint disease or wear-and-tear arthritis. Usually osteoarthritis starts in a single joint.

Rheumatoid arthritis however, is a chronic, inflammatory type of arthritis which is also classified as an autoimmune disease or where the body’s immune cells attach the body’s own healthy tissues. In case of rheumatoid arthritis, the synovial membranes that protect and lubricate the joints get inflamed, causing pain and swelling. There may also be joint erosion with Rheumatoid arthritis. Here, mostly multiple joints are involved.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On Their Prevalence

Over 27 million people in United States are affected by Osteoarthritis. It is most common in people above 65 years of age. It is found that all races in the United States are affected equally by osteoarthritis. As per the American College of Rheumatology, 70% of people above 70 years have x-ray evidence of osteoarthritis.

It is estimated that in the United States, approximately 1.5 million people have Rheumatoid Arthritis and about 1-2% of the world’s total population are affected by Rheumatoid Arthritis. It is noted that about 75% of the patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis are women. Though, it must be mentioned that men, women as well as children can develop Rheumatoid Arthritis. Usually the onset of Rheumatoid arthritis occurs between the ages of 30-60 years.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On The Age at Which It Begins

Osteoarthritis usually begins at a later age of the life in an individual. However, Rheumatoid arthritis may start any time in the life.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On Speed Of Onset

Osteoarthritis develops slowly over years, while Rheumatoid arthritis develops relatively in a rapid manner and over weeks to months.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On Joint Symptom

However, in case of Osteoarthritis; joints of the affected individuals are painful, swollen and stiff.

In case of individual suffering from Rheumatoid arthritis, the commonly experienced symptoms would be joint aches, but have very little or no swelling.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On Pattern Of Joints That Are Affected

In case of Osteoarthritis, symptoms often start on one side of the body and then may spread to the other side. Here, the symptoms usually begin gradually and are most often limited to one set of joints; usually the finger joints that are closest to the thumbs or fingernails.

In case of Rheumatoid arthritis, the condition affects mostly the small and large joints on both sides of the body. Here the pattern is symmetrical, like both hands, both wrists, or both elbows or balls of both your feet.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based on Duration of Morning Stiffness

There is usually morning stiffness that lasts for less than one hour, in case of Osteoarthritis. Stiffness returns at the end of the day or after the periods of activity.

However, in case of Rheumatoid arthritis, morning stiffness usually lasts longer than one hour.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based on Presence of Symptoms Affecting the Whole Body

In case of Osteoarthritis, symptoms are present in whole body. However, in case of Rheumatoid arthritis, there is a frequent fatigue and a normal feel of being ill, are present in the affected individual.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based on Location of Symptoms

Osteoarthritis affects weight bearing joints like back, knee, hip etc along with the neck, small finger joints and the big toe.

Rheumatoid arthritis, mostly causes swelling in pairs of joints, especially the smaller joints like both ankles, hands etc.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On The Causes

Osteoarthritis is a joint disease affecting the cartilage. One may suffer from osteoarthritis simply due to wear-and-tear or because of the effects of aging. Some other factors which may increase the risk of the onset of osteoarthritis include being overweight, genetics or family history of osteoarthritis, joint injury, etc.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an abnormal autoimmune disorder and its cause has not been yet found. Though, common theories point to a genetic predisposition and a triggering event.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On Their Diagnosis

Diagnosis for osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis may include X-rays of the affected joints, Arthrocentesis, Joint fluid removal and joint fluid analysis etc are some of the diagnostic procedures that can help us know about osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis. Blood tests may not definitely diagnose osteoarthritis, however it may be used to rule out other conditions like Rheumatoid arthritis.

Laboratory tests commonly used to diagnose rheumatoid arthritis include C-reactive protein, Rheumatoid factor, Anti- CCP test, erythrocyte sedimentation rate etc.

Osteoarthritis Vs Rheumatoid Arthritis: Differences Based On their Treatments

Treatment of osteoarthritis primarily focuses on pain relief and restoring the function of the affected joint in the individual. Commonly osteoarthritis is treated with medications. Analgesics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and also steroidal injections are used for treating pain and inflammation in osteoarthritis. There are specialized physical therapy exercises which focus to strengthen and to stabilize the joint, support or bracing, rest and weight reduction etc. are all important for a successful treatment of osteoarthritis. Massage therapyacupuncture etc are some of the alternative therapies for osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid arthritis is primarily treated by medication. There are mainly 5 categories of medication used to treat arthritis. Corticosteroids like prednisone, DMARDs or Disease-modifying Anti-rheumatic drugs like Methotrexate, Biologics like Enbrel, Rituxan, Humira, etc., NSAIDs like Celebrex and Naproxen. Apart from medications there are also alternative or complementary treatments or local steroid injections which may help in reducing pain in rheumatoid arthritis.

Surgeries like arthroscopy, arthroplasty or joint replacement etc are last-resort treatment options for osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 22, 2018

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