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Osteoarthritis Versus Rheumatoid Arthritis

Story at-a-glance

  • Did you know that apart from rheumatoid arthritis, there are other equally debilitating types of arthritis?
  • One of the most recognizable is osteoarthritis, which affects roughly 27 million people in the U.S., making it the most common chronic joint condition in the country (RA only affects 1.5 million people).

Did you know that apart from rheumatoid arthritis, there are other debilitating types of arthritis? One of the most recognizable is osteoarthritis, affecting roughly 30 million people in the U.S.1 and making it the most common chronic joint condition in the country.2 To put this into perspective, RA only affects 1.5 million people.3 While RA and osteoarthritis can both cause excruciating pain, there are characteristics that set them apart from each other.

Where These Diseases Manifest Are Different

A major difference between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis lies in how they affect your body. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease that can affect joints, systems and organs such as the heart.4 Meanwhile, osteoarthritis is not an autoimmune or systemic disease,5 and only targets the joints in the knees, hips, spine, feet6 and hands.7

Additionally, the way these diseases manifest in your body are different. In rheumatoid arthritis, the immune system erroneously attacks the joints, particularly the synovium or the tissue lining, causing the joint to thickens and become inflamed and painful.8 Osteoarthritis, also called degenerative joint disease, occurs once cartilage breaks down and deteriorates. The cartilage, a hard and slippery tissue,9 is important since it serves as a cushion for the bones in your joints and promotes frictionless,10 unhampered movement.11

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) highlights that as the disease worsens, the risk of the joint to lose its usual shape increases, and bone spurs may develop on the joints’ edges. A bone breakdown may also occur, wherein portions of the bone separate and reside in the allotted space for the joint, triggering immense pain.12 Cartilage breakdown may prompt the bones to move against each other, leading to swelling, pain and loss of joint motion.13 This is why you should consult your physician once you experience the following symptoms:14

People Across Age Groups Can Be Targeted by Both Diseases

When the disease manifests depends on certain factors, too. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs in women between 30 and 60 years old. Men may also be diagnosed with this type of arthritis, although at a later period.15 Meanwhile, osteoarthritis is common in people aged 60 and above, although the disease may already manifest in people as young as 20 to 30 years old.16

The risk factors or causes of these diseases vary as well. Rheumatoid arthritis mainly develops because of hormonal, environmental, genetic17 and/or lifestyle18 factors. On the other hand, NIAMS says that osteoarthritis can result from the following:19

Being overweight

Old age

Joint injury

Improperly formed joints

Genetic defects in joint cartilage

Joint stress triggered by certain jobs and/or sports

MORE ABOUT RHEUMATOID ARTHRITIS

Rheumatoid Arthritis: Introduction

What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Rheumatoid Arthritis Types

Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

Rheumatoid Arthritis Causes

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

Rheumatoid Arthritis Prevention

Is Rheumatoid Arthritis Hereditary?

Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

Rheumatoid Arthritis FAQ

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Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis

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Rheumatoid Arthritis Diet

Sources and References

  • 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 3, 2018
  • 2 Clin Geriatr Med. 2010 Aug; 26(3): 355–369
  • 3, 15 Arthritis Foundation, “What Is Rheumatoid Arthritis?”
  • 4 Mayo Clinic, August 9, 2017
  • 5 MedicineNet, June 8, 2017
  • 6 WebMD, April 19, 2018
  • 7 WebMD, March 8, 2018
  • 8 Southern Cross Medical Society, July 2017
  • 9, 13 MedicineNet, May 1, 2016
  • 10 Mayo Clinic, March 6, 2018
  • 11 Medical News Today, July 10, 2017
  • 12, 14, 19 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, May 30, 2016
  • 16 WebMD, May 5, 2018
  • 17 National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Skin Diseases, April 30, 2017
  • 18 Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Published Online First: 16 March 2013
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