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Differences between osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis

Differences between osteoarthritis & rheumatoid arthritis

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    Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) are the two most common conditions that give rise to joint pain and even joint bone stiffness. Still, these both are different conditions that occur due to different causes and also require diverse treatment approaches.

    There are approximately more than a hundred types of arthritis. In this article, we will consider the difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Even though OA and RA share almost the same symptoms like inflammation in the joints, pain, etc. there is a thin line of difference between RA and OA.

    Fundamental Difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

    Arthritis is a term that describes inflammation of the joints and a painful complication. However, among all the different arthritis types, we will discuss the primary difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis which is very straightforward. RA is a typical autoimmune condition, while OA is a degenerative joint condition. By saying
    autoimmune disorder, we mean a condition where the body’s immune system attacks its tissues and cells.

    In a person with RA, the body’s immunity system considers the soft lining around your joints as a threat or something similar to a virus or a bacteria and starts attacking it. Such attack accumulates some fluid within the area throughout the joint and gives rise to pain, stiffness, inflammation around the joints, etc.

    Whereas OA is one of the other most common forms of arthritis that is degenerative, people suffering from this condition will experience a breakdown of the cartilage that cushions their joints. The cartilage wearing down causes the bones to rub against each other and exposes small nerves that produce pain. The fundamental difference between RA and OA is OA does not involve any autoimmune process like RA; still, people may
    experience mild inflammation.

    Difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis in terms of symptoms. Some of the primary and common symptoms that RA and OA generally shares are mentioned below-

    ● Painful and stiff joints
    ● Limited range of motion
    ● Warmth or pain in the affected area
    ● Increased pain especially in the morning

    The Osteoarthritis vs Rheumatoid arthritis symptoms can be distinguished easily as the RA symptoms usually start worsening within no time, for instance, within a few weeks. Still, the OA symptoms appear gradually with time as the joints’ protective tissues start breaking down.

    Both the conditions affect the different joints present in the body, OA in most of the cases hampers the knees, the small fingers and the thumb joints. Whereas, RA can impact hands, fingers, elbows, knees, feet on both sides of the body and even hips. Yes, the RA symptoms usually affect the joints on both sides of the body, while OA affects only one side as it is a localized condition that only affects the joints and its surrounding tissues.

    Osteoarthritis versus Rheumatoid arthritis

    Rheumatoid arthritis- When comparing RA vs OA, you must know that each kind of arthritis has its own set of symptoms and since RA is a systemic disease, it can affect your entire body including lungs, heart, eyes and even joints. Some of the early signs of RA include-

    ● Low-grade fever especially in children
    ● Muscle aches
    ● Excessive fatigue

    People with an advanced RA stage may also notice some hard lumps called the rheumatoid nodules present underneath the skin surrounding their joints.

    Osteoarthritis- People suffering from OA do not experience all the symptoms as OA’s degenerative nature is limited to joints. However, in some conditions, you might develop lumps under the skin around joints, but these are not similar to the ones that occur due to rheumatoid arthritis. People suffering from OA may also develop bone spurs or excess bone growth at the edges of the affected joints.

    Most affected joints

    Now that you already know the RA and OA differences, it’s time to know about the most affected joints.

    RA commonly impacts the smaller joints due to which you will experience extreme pain, stiffness and swelling in the finger joints. As the severity of the condition worsens, symptoms may develop in larger joints such as knees, shoulders and even ankles. Now the worst news is that RA is a symmetrical condition for which you simultaneously experience symptoms on both sides of your body.

    However, OA is a less symmetrical condition that might give rise to a painful condition in both your left and right knee and just on one side. Like RA, people may also feel some pain on hands, fingers, spine and even hips.

    RA vs OA – Treatment approach

    The primary goal in treating both these condition includes-

    ● Reducing pain
    ● Improving mobility or functionality
    ● Minimizing the damage caused to your joints

    People suffering from osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis must seek professional help before the condition worsens. The doctor will analyze each case and will provide a customized treatment plan based on your condition. Well, diagnosing the condition can sometimes become very challenging as the systems may overlap particularly in the early stages. So, doctors may conduct some blood tests, x-rays, MRI and even ultrasound scans to determine the condition before prescribing medication.

    Usually, some anti-inflammatory and corticosteroid medications are generally prescribed by the doctors for treating either of these conditions. The only OA and RA difference regarding treatment is that while treating RA, doctors will prescribe such drugs to gradually suppress your immune system and prevent damage by stopping your body from attacking the joints. Otherwise, most doctors provide some steroid-based medication to reduce the inflammation and recommend taking several physical therapy
    sessions to improve a person’s mobility and maintain their joints’ flexibility.


    Now that you are conscious about the fine line of difference in osteo and rheumatoid arthritis, you must be aware of the harsh truth that there is no cure to this disease. However, there are tons of treatments that are available to manage the symptoms of both conditions. As soon as you start experiencing joint pain, you must immediately

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