Osteoarthritis vs. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Apr 2, 2018

share this article

Many individuals mistakenly think these are the same diseases, but there are many differences between the characteristics of these two causes of arthritis. In this post, we will discuss the similarities and differences between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and also touch on some other forms of arthritis.

Arthritis can be defined as the inflammation of a joint. Arthritis is actually considered a symptom of a disease, not a disease itself. There are more than 100 diseases that have a common symptom of arthritis.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the inflammation of weight bearing joints that causes the breakdown of the cartilage, bone thickening, and bone spurs within the joint. It is not a systemic disease, which means it could affect only a single joint in your body. For example, you may have a significant degree of osteoarthritis in one knee, but not as significant arthritis in the other. However, osteoarthritis can affect multiple joints. There are many risk factors for the development of OA in a joint, but it is mostly due to “wear and tear” from excessive stress on a joint over time.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease causing inflammation of the synovial membrane that surrounds the joint. The synovial membrane is connective tissue that lines the inside portion of the joint. It holds the synovial fluid, a fluid that provides protection and lubrication for the joint. This inflammation (synovitis) leads to swelling and joint and tissue destruction over time.

RA is a systemic disease, which means that many systems in the body are affected and multiple joints in the body are affected, too. It is also an autoimmune disease, which means the person’s own immune system attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. Although the cause of RA is unclear, there appears to be a genetic predisposition for having the disease in some individuals. In these individuals, the disease is often triggered by a virus or bacteria in the body.

As stated above, there are over 100 diseases with the symptom of arthritis, with osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid arthritis being the most common. Let’s briefly touch on a couple other common causes of arthritis.

Psoriatic Arthritis:

Psoriasis is a skin condition where skin cells build up on the surface of the skin to form red patches and scales that are often itchy. Some individuals with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. This arthritis can affect any part of your body, but most commonly affects your fingers and spine. There can be periods of exacerbation and remission.

Fibromyalgia Arthritis:

Fibromyalgia is associated with chronic pain throughout the body among other symptoms. It can cause joint and muscle pain. It is also not uncommon for individuals with fibromyalgia to also be diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.


This disease causes an increase in uric acid in your bloodstream. This leads to the formation of sharp crystals within your joints. Gouty arthritis most commonly occurs in your foot in your big toe, but you can have gout in many different joints in your body.

There are many mechanisms and diseases that cause arthritis in the different joints of your body. By better understanding these mechanisms and diseases, you are better able to manage the pain and discomfort you are experiencing.

Image: Shutterstock.com

Subscribe to our newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from the Knee Replacement Therapists. Also, for a limited time, receive a free article from The Knee Replacement Therapists describing why your x-rays may not be giving you the whole story.

Free Preview

Click here for a free preview of some of the content found in our video Programs


Knee to Know Show

Click here to checkout our popular vlog with videos on a variety of topics related to knee replacement surgery, knee pain and arthritis, and helpful exercises and activities.

Ready to get started?

Browse our programs, or purchase now.

Is your medical imaging telling the whole story?

Join our mailing list and receive a free article describing why your x-rays may not be giving you the whole story.

Thank you for subscribing! Please check your email to confirm your subscription.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.

Thank you for subscribing! Please check your email to confirm your subscription.