The symptoms and treatment for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis are different, and an accurate diagnosis is important for the patient's health. RA is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks healthy tissues in the body. On the other hand, osteoarthritis is caused by aging and regular wear and tear of the body.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a disease in which your own immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, causing inflammation that damages your joints. No single cause for RA has been found; current theory suggests patients are genetically predisposed to the disease.
On the other hand, Osteoarthritis (OA) is not an autoimmune disease. It is a condition of wear and tear associated with aging or injury. The immune system is not affected. Common causes for OA include joint injury, repetitive strain/use, being overweight as well as genetic predisposition.
edit Signs and symptoms
- RA usually causes pain or stiffness lasting for more than 30 minutes in the morning or after long rest and lack of activity. OA stiffness tends to get worse with use throughout the day.
- RA is associated with symmetrical swelling e.g., both hands, both elbows, etc. whereas OA is associated with asymmetrical (not "matching") swelling in individual joints that are not part of a pair — e.g., one knee and an elbow, instead of both knees
- Most typically, RA symptoms include joint pain, swelling, tenderness, and redness of the joints; prolonged morning stiffness; and less range of movement. Some people also experience fever, weight loss, fatigue, and/or anemia Generally, OA symptoms include joint stiffness, pain, and enlarged joints and it does not have any systemic symptoms.
- RA tends to cause swelling and pain in smaller joints such as the hands and ankles while OA tends to cause pain and swelling in bigger joints such as the hips and knees.
edit Location of joints involved
With RA, inflammation generally occurs in the knuckles and at the joints closest to your hands, nearer the base of your fingers. On the other hand with OA, inflammation generally occurs at the joint closest to your fingernail.
OA is much more common than RA. In the United States alone, an estimated 20 million people have osteoarthritis, and approximately 2.1 million people have RA.
- Essential Orthopaedics by J . Maheshwari
- Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine volume 1 , 15th edition.
- Article on Yahoo Health portal
- Article on About.com