A Brief Comparison between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis

Signs of Rheumatoid Arthritis
Arthritis Treatment Guide

Arthritis is a health condition in which one or more joints of a person tend to get swollen causing stiffness and pain. This condition is likely to get worse with age. Note that there are over a hundred types of arthritis and two of the most prominent and common ones are rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA). Even though these two health issues belong to a common category and cause inflammation of joints, the former is much worse when compared to the latter.

In fact, even some health professionals had a misconception until recently that osteoarthritis is not associated with inflammation or swelling of joints. While RA and OA tend to feature almost the same symptoms, they tend to exhibit several dissimilarities in many aspects. Some of those vital points are given below.


RA and OA are caused as a result of joint damage. However, the causes of joint damage when it comes to RA and OA are different.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In other words, this issue occurs when the immune system of a person tends to attack their own healthy tissue joints accidentally. This health condition can be caused as a result of both genetic and environmental factors.


Here, the protective layer between the bones tends to wear down over time because of the excessive pressure subjected to the joints or repetitive movements. For instance, the chances for a sportsperson to get affected by OA are much higher when compared to a non-athlete.

The Symptoms

The symptoms exhibited by both RA and OA include;

  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint pain
  • Joint inflammation
  • Restricted mobility
  • Severe pain in the affected joints, especially in the morning

Note that when compared to OA, the symptoms of RA are most likely to develop quickly and get worse over time; usually within a few weeks. Below are some of the notable signs of Rheumatoid arthritis.

  • Weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Rheumatoid nodules
  • Inflammation or swelling in other areas such as eyes and lungs

When it comes to osteoarthritis, it doesn’t exhibit any systematic symptoms. However, it can result in bone spurs or any other bone irregularities over time. Usually, OA is relatively a slow process and will take time to develop symptoms. After all, breaking down the protective layer between the bones is likely to take some time. However, if an affected person attempt activities such as hiking, he/she can expect sudden inflammation in the joints, especially the knees.

Areas affected

OA is localized around the tissue joints and often affects only one side of the body of the sufferer. Note that OA mainly occurs in the knee joints, thumb joints, and the small finger of a person. On the other hand, RA can result in the inflammation of multiple joints known as polyarticular arthritis, which is a subtype of the health issue. This health condition usually affects the joints such as the elbows, hands, hips, fingers, feet, etc. Plus, RA tends to affect the body of the affected person symmetrically. In simple words, it occurs in the same joints on both sides of the body of the sufferer.