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Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

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differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis Photo: Getty Images

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, involves the degeneration or break down of the cartilage in the joints. Aging, obesity and joint injury are contributing factors.

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease while osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease. Normally, our immune system fights off harmful foreign substances such as a virus and bacteria. In the presence of an autoimmune disease, the immune system mistakenly recognizes healthy tissue as foreign and attacks itself.

Osteoarthritis causes pain, swelling and limited motion in any joint in your body, but most often occurs in the hands, knees and weight-bearing joints like the hips or spine. Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic disease that causes inflammation in the joints, surrounding tissue, and even other organs. Usually joints on both sides of the body are affected equally. The most commonly affected joints include the wrists, fingers, knees, feet and ankles.

The pain associated with osteoarthritis is typically less intense in the morning than in the afternoon or evening and occurs during and after movement. The pain, swelling and joint stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis is characteristically most severe in the morning, often felt on both sides of the body and can last for more than one hour. The joints can become warm, stiff and tender when not used for less than one hour.

Osteoarthritis results when the cartilage that covers the ends of the joint bones deteriorates. The usually smooth surface of cartilage becomes rough, thus causing irritation. Without the protective cushion of cartilage, bone rubs against bone. The ends of the bones become damaged causing pain, tenderness, swelling and eventually, limited range of motion. The cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown. Infection, genetics, and hormones may possibly contribute to this autoimmune disease.

Women, older adults, individuals who are born with bone deformities and those who have had a bone injury are at higher risk for developing osteoarthritis.

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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