What is the difference between Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis

The word arthritis is one of a very common disease that affects millions of people, which I am pretty sure that most of us have heard about this disease. Most of the people when they have arthritis, it really depends on what type of arthritis it is. There are two kinds of arthritis I will specifically explain in this article; Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis.



According to other sources, osteoarthritis is a type of  degenerative joint disease that causes breakdown of the articular cartilage, and the structures that surrounds the bones, which is one of the main causes of disability in adults

Structures of the joint

In the end surfaces of the bones, it contains a kind of connective tissue called articular cartilage, which surround a big joint space. This kind of cartilage serves as a cushion of the joint; in another word it relieves the pressure surrounding the joints. This is because of surrounding the cartilage, it contains a thick fluid called a synovium, which help keeps the cartilage healthy, eventually making the joint smooth.

Normally when we grow old, the cartilage is starting to deteriorate. But in those with Osteoarthritis, the cartilage is starting to abnormally degenerate fast. This decreases the joint space, which they can no longer provide a cushion of the joint, causing symptoms of osteoarthritis. Moreover, it will also affect other surrounding structures such as the ligaments, and meniscus.


The exact cause of having Osteoarthritis is unknown. But having multiple risk factors will increase chances of having this condition. Two of the most common causes is usually age and obesity/overweight. When our age increases, the cartilage will normally start to deteriorate. While those who are obese, this will put too much weight on the joint, causing increase compression, and subsequent leading to cartilage degeneration.

In addition to that, other risk factors includes:
Gender: which is more common in female than male,
Family history: if you have family members who have osteoarthritis, you are likely to have one
Occupation such as those in construction, agriculture, retail and cleaning
Traumatic injuries
Joint infection


Signs & Symptoms

The most common two symptoms are usually pain and stiffness, which tends to get worse during movement. According to other references, the common joints that are commonly affected are usually in the spine, wrist, hands (DIP joints is more commonly affected than MCP and PIP joints), Hip, Knee and the Feet and it is usually located on one side only. When the affected joint is being moved or touched, there is a feeling of crackling noises known as crepitus; this is usually common in the knee.

There is also a nodule that is caused by a bone formation known as the osteophyte, which is commonly found in the joints of the fingers. These are called Heberden’s nodes; a nodule formation in the Distal Interphalangeal joints (DIP); a joint that is closed to the end of the fingers. Bouchard’s nodes, on the other hand, it is a nodule formation in the Proximal Interphalangeal joints (PIP); located in middle joints of the fingers.



The best way to diagnose this condition is to check through X-ray. Based on the radiographic finding there is usually decrease joint space and osteophyte formation.


Osteoarthritis is a permanent condition, but that doesn’t mean that you will be disabled for the rest of your life. There are many ways to help relieve your symptoms, which will eventually improve your quality of life.

A. Exercises: help improves the conditions of Osteoarthritis by increasing the muscle strength, which will help reduce the compression of the joint. In addition to that, it also helps improve muscle flexibility.

B. Weight Loss: It is very important to know that having Osteoarthritis is caused by being overweight, and losing as little as 5 pounds can help relieve the symptoms significantly without using in need of NSAID

C. Hot and Cold Compress: Apply Cold compress if you noticed swelling and heated in your joints, and this can also be applied after you have performed exercises to reduce soreness of the muscles and the joints. A Hot compress can be used during chronic stage, which will help reduce pain and improve flexibility.

D. Assistive devices: If you experience pain during weight bearing, using cane can help reduce weight bearing in your affected joint. A knee brace or splint can also help reduce pain in the knee joint.

E. Nutrition support: It is important to know that Eating healthy foods will help relieve the symptoms of arthritis.

Medical Management

Usually, you are given pain medication such as NSAID or analgesic. In other circumstances, if the symptoms persist you will be given a chance to have a Hyaluronic injection which produces faster relieving effect of Osteoarthritis.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune inflammatory disease which affects multiple joints. This causes warm and swollen joint, which affected on both sides equally, compare to osteoarthritis which is only one side.


The causes of having Rheumatoid Arthritis is unknown. This can be caused by the autoimmune disorder, which your immune system will response abnormally, and this response can cause inflammation. Unlike Osteoarthritis which happens in middle age adult, rheumatoid arthritis happens in the young age which is as early as 18 years old.

Signs and Symptoms

A person with Rheumatoid Arthritis usually experiences pain and morning stiffness, which got worse during the morning and at rest. The affected joint is bilateral involvement which is usually in the cervical spine (neck), shoulder joint, fingers (PIP and MCP joint more commonly affected), and feet’s.

The problem of having Rheumatoid Arthritis it is autoimmune disorders, multiple organs are involved, such as it causes anemia, rheumatoid nodules in the skin, fibrosis of the lung, and many more others problems.

Take cautious that when you are having Rheumatoid Arthritis in the neck, this is extremely dangerous because one of the complications is that having a subluxation can cause abnormal neurological symptoms, such as hyperreflexia clumsiness, weakness, or increase muscle tone. If the person experiences this when he or she has Rheumatoid Arthritis, immediately seek emergency care, preferably take him to the hospital as soon as possible. 



Usually, the best way to know if the person has rheumatoid arthritis is to be familiar with this criteria.

  1. Morning stiffness which got worse during morning or rest
  2. Arthritis in 3 or more joints
  3. Arthritis in the joints of the hands (wrist, MCP, PIP)
  4. Arthritis on both side
  5. Presence Nodules located on the dorsal surface of the skin
  6. Positive Rheumatoid factors which are done by laboratory testing
  7. Abnormal radiological findings based on this picture below, which there is a presence of bony erosion and nodules


Unfortunately, since this is an Autoimmune disease, no treatment can cure this condition, but at least it can improve the symptoms and the quality of life, which the management is similar like Osteoarthritis.



  1. Very, VERY interesting 🙂

    Your posts are so detailed, and so clear, concise…..straight to the point.

    My mother’s a doctor, so some of these terms are quite familiar to me. 🙂

    The way you laid it all out in your posts is quite something.

    Nicely done!

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