• Emma B

The difference between rheumatoid and osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two of the most common types of arthritis. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory disease that can affect joints, organs, and body systems. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a degenerative condition that results in the breakdown of cartilage in the joints.

While both conditions can cause pain and stiffness in the joints, there are several key differences between them. These include the age of onset, the joints affected, the course of the disease, and the treatment options.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the key differences between rheumatoid and osteoarthritis, as well as their investigation and treatment.



What is the difference?


Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the joints. It can also cause problems in other organs, such as the eyes, lungs, heart, and blood vessels. Rheumatoid is an autoimmune disease, which means that the body's immune system attacks healthy tissue. This can cause inflammation, pain, and damage to the joints.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time. Early diagnosis and treatment are important to help prevent the progression of the disease and to preserve joint function. There is no cure, but treatments can help relieve symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

The exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown, but it is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men and typically begins after the age of 40.


Osteoarthritis is a type of joint disease that results from the breakdown of cartilage. Cartilage is the smooth, slippery tissue that covers the ends of bones and helps them glide over each other. Osteoarthritis can affect any joint in your body, but it most often affects the joints in your hands, knees, hips, or spine.

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative disease, which means that it gets worse over time. The symptoms of osteoarthritis can vary depending on the severity of the disease, but they typically include pain, stiffness, and swelling in the affected joint. Osteoarthritis can make it difficult to do everyday activities, such as walking or getting out of a chair.

There is no cure for osteoarthritis, but there are treatments that can help relieve the symptoms. These include pain medications, physical therapy, and weight loss.


How does the investigation work?


If you think you are suffering with either of these seeing your GP or a medical professional is important. Physical tests may be required to see how you cope with everyday tasks and repeated appointments may be needed to keep up-to-date on physical ability.

Blood tests may also be required to discover if you have antibodies which are predictive for rheumatoid arthritis.

Another way to discover is through scans, this can help to tell which type of arthritis you may have. X-rays and MRIs are useful tools to look at the bones and cartilage which may have been severely damaged over time by the condition.


What treatments are available?


There is no cure for arthritis, but there are treatments that can help manage the symptoms. There are a variety of different treatments, including medication, physical therapy, and surgery. The best treatment for arthritis depends on the individual and the severity of their condition. Medication can help to reduce pain and inflammation, while physical therapy can help to improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles around the joints. Surgery is usually only recommended for severe cases of arthritis.

If surgery is recommended, this is typically for a joint replacement. This is more common for knees as they are the joints which have some of the most force and stress put through them.


In conclusion, the two main types of arthritis are rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. They differ in several ways, the most significant of which is that rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease while osteoarthritis is not. Rheumatoid arthritis also tends to affect multiple joints while osteoarthritis usually only affects one.

MSKdoctors can offer an initial assessment to discover if you have these conditions through the open MRI available and if needed, clinicians will be able to perform joint replacement.

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