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Osteoarthritis Versus Rheumatoid Arthritis

By HERWriter
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differences between rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis iStockphoto/Thinkstock

According to the Arthritis Foundation, approximately 46 million Americans have some type of arthritis or related condition. Women make up more than 60 percent of all arthritis cases.

Arthritis affects the connective tissues, joints and other surrounding tissues. The symptoms include swelling, tenderness, as well as severe to mild pain.

The Arthritis Foundation states, “the term 'arthritis' encompasses more than 100 diseases.” Two of those arthritis diseases are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

One of the most common forms of arthritis is osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis may also be known as OA or degenerative joint disease. More than 16 million U.S. women suffer from OA. Most OA patients are over the age of 40.

OA causes damage to cartilage and bones, initiating joint pain, swelling, stiffness and loss of function.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), OA “is caused by the breakdown of cartilage, which is the connective tissue that cushions the ends of bones within the joint.”

It is important to note that OA is most common in weight-bearing joints and the hands.

Rheumatoid arthritis, which is also known as RA, affects more than 1.3 million people annually between 25-50 years of age. RA strikes women 2.5 times more often than men.

One main difference between OA and RA is that RA is a systemic disease.

Arthritis Today states, RA is “an abnormality in the body's immune system causes it to work improperly, leading to inflammation in the lining of the joints and other internal organs.”

Over time, inflammation can lead to limited movement, pain and deterioration of your joints.

The bottom line is RA can affect the whole body while OA only affects your joints.

In an interview with ABC News, Eric Ruderman, M.D., Associate Professor of Rheumatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, clearly stated one example perfect example of the difference between RA and OA.

Add a Comment5 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

Nice Article, Thanks for giving so much meanigful information.

March 13, 2013 - 4:50am

There are many types of arthritis that people suffer from and can be from various reasons as well. What ever type is sure to bring along a range of stiffness and pain along with it, RA being the most debilitating. There is a relatively new product that is having some great results and feedback that you can read about here. http://www.healthychoicesplus.com/severe-pain-reliever-provailen-review

November 13, 2012 - 4:37am
EmpowHER Guest

RA does not affect the cartilage. It affects the synovial fluid and then an enzyme attacks the bone itself. It does not just affect people ages 25-50 but people of all ages - including very young children. It is a progressive degenerative autoimmune disease. There is no cure.

October 13, 2012 - 11:12am
EmpowHER Guest

As someone with RA, it is so much more than just my joints. RA also comes with fatigue. RA is an autoimmune disease - more closely related to MS than OA on the disease scale. The only reason "arthritis" is in its name is because the disease attacks the joints and bones themselves causing daily pain, severe disfigurement and lack of mobility.
50% of RA victims are unable to work within 10 years of diagnosis.
My husband has OA in his knees. He sees what I go through (with well-controlled RA) and readily admits that his OA pales in comparison to the impact of my RA.
When I tell people I have rheumatoid arthritis, all they hear is arthritis and relate it to their ankle pain they get once in awhile. This disease is sorely misunderstood by those who do not have it.

October 12, 2012 - 2:42pm

Very good article. Love that you made the distinction between the two using systemic versus just joint related. Thank you.

October 11, 2012 - 2:28pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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