Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are different types of arthritis. They share some similar characteristics, but each has different symptoms and requires different treatment. So an accurate diagnosis is important.
Autoimmune vs. Degenerative Disease
RA is an autoimmune disease, which means your body attacks itself. In people with RA, the body interprets the synovium, the soft lining around the joints, as a threat similar to a virus or bacteria and attacks it. This attack causes fluid to accumulate within the joint. The fluid buildup causes swelling, pain, stiffness, and inflammation around your joints.
OA, the most common form of arthritis, is a degenerative joint disease. People with OA experience a breakdown of the cartilage that cushions the joints. The wearing down of cartilage causes your bones to rub against each other exposing small nerves, which causes pain. OA does not involve an autoimmune process like RA does, but mild inflammation also occurs.
Both types of arthritis are more common in women than men. OA and RA are more prevalent in older adults, but RA can develop at any age.
People who are overweight, suffer from joint deformities, diabetes, or gout are more likely to develop OA. RA can run in families.
Here is a comparison between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis symptoms:
- Joint pain, stiffness, swelling affecting multiple joints
- Symmetrical symptoms affecting both sides of the body
- Morning stiffness lasting longer than 30 minutes
- Additional symptoms like fatigue, fever, and malaise
- Joint pain and stiffness usually affecting hands, fingers or knees
- Joints on one side affected worse than on the other side
- Morning stiffness lasting fewer than 30 minutes
- Possible spine and hip pain as well