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Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: Differences, Similarities

Today let’s do a detailed comparison of Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, it is going to be autoimmune. The body attacks itself. It is a whole body kind of process. Whereas in osteoarthritis we’re dealing with overuse. Usually in elderly people or people carrying extra weight, weighing down their joints.

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis Similarities

First, before the differences Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis, let’s just quickly go over the commonalities and why it’s important to distinguish them because people come in complaining of the same things.


Pain is number one. Their joints hurt, both of these can be painful.


They can also involve stiffness. The quality and timing of it will be different but they’ll both tell you that their joints feel stiff and they can’t use them well. So they might avoid using their limbs might lead to muscular weakness.


Weakness, loss of function – this weakness and loss of function and inability to do things they like to do might actually have indirect effects on their mood. For, example depression is common because both of these are chronic diseases. So, depression risk for Rheumatoid arthritis congestive heart failure and other things from a sedentary lifestyle are all things to consider.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: Differences

A very important feature that distinguishes Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis is symmetry and asymmetry. There are different types of rheumatoid arthritis. People wonder what is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, it is also a type of arthritis.



Difference between osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis ppt is that In rheumatoid arthritis, we have symmetry between the left side and the right side of the body. So, for example when a person with RA comes in and tells you my shoulders hurt it’s going to be both of the shoulders, left and right. Both of them!

So, we just think of location there can be overlap. For example, both of these can lead to painful knees. but in rheumatoid arthritis, it’s more likely to be about both sides. Wrists, elbows, both sides.


Whereas in Osteoarthritis, we have often asymmetry because Osteoarthritis comes from wear and tear on the joints. and sometimes it is going to be not even between the left or right side of the body. But also the cartilage that we start out with might not be the same so for these people they can have one shoulder. Another knee may be, the same ankle, the other wrist. The pattern of it is going to look more like asymmetrical.

RA vs OA: Locations

Also, the specific locations of Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis are really important to know too. In our hands, we have different knuckles.

DIP and PIP (Distal and Proximal Interphalangeal Joints)

The very last knuckle row of knuckles closest to the tips of the fingers is called the distal interphalangeal joints. (DIP)

So if we keep going towards the wrist the next set is going to be called the proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints as in proximal or closer to the center of the body.

So in RA is very important to know that the DIP joints are spared. The very last knuckles there are usually not going to be affected. When RA affects the joints in our hands it’s going to affect the PIP the proximal kind of in the middle of the fingers and of course, it’s symmetrical so it’s going to be both sides.

For osteoarthritis, the DIP is not spared. The very last joints here can be affected but again it’s not symmetrical. We might have these fingers on one hand and different fingers on the other hand.

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Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: Timings

Let’s discuss the time of day of Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. RA is to be the worst. So for patients with RA, their symptoms are going to be worst in the morning. As they get up and move around during the day the stiffness gets better, throughout the day. Therefore, they use it more, the symptoms are actually lessened for rheumatoid arthritis.

Since we know that osteoarthritis from overuse you can guess that this particular feature is going to be opposite on this side. Therefore, for patients with osteoarthritis when they first wake up they’ve rested overnight so the pain and stiffness are actually a lot better but as they use it it gets worse.

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: Feeling

Next, we’ll talk about what it feels in comparing Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. In your rheumatoid arthritis, this is inflammation coming from the immune system attacking itself. So as you look at it, it’s going to look pinkish. Different from the rest of the skin and when you put your hand to it should feel warm.

In Osteoarthritis, we can have some enlargement maybe the shape of the fingers change. You can see the big painful torturous knuckles but is usually not going to be warm to the touch. So this side is going to be cooler.

Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis: Joint Shapes

RA definitely changes the shape of the joints dramatically. On this side, it’s going to be more of a twisting different shape of the joint. How joints shapes can affect Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis.

In osteoarthritis, it’s going to be more of an enlargement he’s going down the sensory organs on the OS. If the patient is using the joint and you’re next to them you might hear something. A sound called crepitus. Which is the sound that their joints make when it’s bone grinding on bone. It’s a sound of friction and grinding. It doesn’t sound good coming from a joint but it’s something that’s more specific to osteoarthritis than rheumatoid.

RA vs OA: Onset

Moving on, we’ll talk about the time of onset of Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. This is overuse we should be born with plenty of cartilage and it wears down over time. The onset of osteoarthritis should be slow it should take years to develop and the symptom the severity should grow worse over time. Now we’re here for rheumatoid arthritis. I don’t know if fast is the good word because it’s a chronic disease but I think a better word for describing that timing for RA might be random or just cyclical.

They might have flare-ups better one second worse. As the flares go up and down this systemic disease affects the whole body. We might have some fever, might have some malaise. Overall, it’s not just a joint problem. We’d have vasculitis because the immune system is attacking everything. It is a body’s reaction to the inflammation the chronic inflammation comes from within.

Osteoarthritis we shouldn’t have any fever or any bodily symptoms but again keep in mind that not being able to use your body is frustrating and limits the quality of life so depression can happen, which can sometimes lead to malaise but it should be different from this whole global picture that we get with RA.

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So these were some of the main symptoms that are different Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. There are more specific ways to diagnose each but just from these symptoms mentioned above, you should be now able to tell the differences, similarities among the two Rheumatoid Arthritis vs Osteoarthritis. Can you have osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis? Yes, you can.

Final Verdict

So rheumatoid arthritis is inflammation-type arthritis and it affects in the early stages the small joints of the hands and feet, and patients will know that they have rheumatoid arthritis or might have rheumatoid arthritis if they get pain and swelling in those areas and specifically and critically, the swelling is the case. And associated with that there will be some stiffness in the joints and typically the stiffness is worst in the morning rather than at night.

Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, is a condition which tends to occur as we get older and it does not affect the joints so symmetrically. In other words, not the same joints on each side of the body.




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