rheumatoid arthritis vs osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: what you need to know!

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, a condition that develops in two main types. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune systemic disorder, and Osteoarthritis is the local degeneration of the joints with time. While the underlying causes might be different, there are similarities in their symptoms.

The general symptoms of arthritis are joint pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, and warmth or tenderness in the joints, which tend to aggravate in the morning.

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)

RA is an autoimmune systemic disorder that causes a self-attack. The immune system targets almost all areas of your body, attacking it like it would fight a virus or bacterial infection. As a result, rheumatoid arthritis causes swelling from excess fluid in the joints. The fluid accumulation causes stiffness, pain, and inflammation near the joints.

RA can occur at any age. It has various symptoms, including joint pain, that can develop and worsen over weeks or months.


It is the most common type and is the local degeneration of joint cartilages over decades of wear and tear, which leads to a reduction in the amount of cushion in the joints. Bones eventually rub against each other in these cases, causing pain. 

Mild inflammation occurs but is not often related to an autoimmune issue. The onset of Osteoarthritis is gradual over the years, but this may be accelerated by trauma to the joint.

rheumatoid arthritis vs osteoarthritis - Prof Dr. Robert Hierner

Complications caused by Rheumatoid Arthritis

In addition to the joints, rheumatoid arthritis also affects the entire body, causing issues in the lungs, heart, eyes, blood vessels, or nerves. The risk of heart-related issues is also elevated by 50%. Rheumatoid arthritis can also cause muscle pain and excessive fatigue.

Complications caused by Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis symptoms are just limited to the affected joints, unlike RA, which may have an aching and burning sensation or experience sharp pain. It may lead to lumps under the skin of the joint, but those spots differ from rheumatoid nodules. In addition, Osteoarthritis may result in bone spurs, which are excessive bone growth along the edges of arthritic joints.

Osteoarthritis isn’t symmetrical, so its symptoms could include pain in one knee or worse pain in one side of the body than the other. It commonly manifests itself in hands and fingers, like rheumatoid arthritis. 

What are the treatment options?

Treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and Osteoarthritis seeks to reduce pain, improve joint functioning, and minimize further damage. Physiotherapy is of the utmost importance and the basis of further treatments. Doctors approach these two types of arthritis differently but with the same underlying goals. Both types of arthritis respond to anti-inflammatory medications. Although there isn’t a permanent cure for either type of arthritis, treatments manage the symptoms and prevent further damage.

For rheumatoid arthritis, doctors prescribe immune system suppressants to stop the immune system from attacking joints. Treatment plans include exercise, medicine, and long-term lifestyle changes. 

Early treatment is key in preventing permanent damage and effectively managing symptoms. Doctors prescribe medications and long-term management like resting when tired, using assistive devices, following a diet and exercise regimen, and staying healthy. 

Surgery to replace joints may also be required eventually. If you want to know more about rheumatoid arthritis vs osteoarthritis or looking for a consultation, book an appointment with Prof Dr Robert now.