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Rheumatoid Arthritis vs. Osteoarthritis

Posted by Advanced Specialty Care on May 30, 2015 2:00:00 PM

Rheumatoid arthritis vs osteoarthritisRheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are two debilitating conditions that affect a large segment of the population. Although both can cause pain in the joints, there are particular differences between the two.


Osteoarthritis is primarily caused by the normal wear and tear of the joints with advancing age. Meanwhile, the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is unknown and is generally considered an autoimmune disease wherein the body’s immune system suddenly attacks the healthy joints and its surrounding tissues. There is no clear reason as to what triggers the immune reaction, however stress, genetics, hormonal influences, and infection are considered primary causative factors. Rheumatoid arthritis is more common in women than men.


Osteoarthritis is a common condition amongst the elderly. Individuals who are above 40 years of age are at increased risk. By way of contrast, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers are equally distributed amongst the young and older adults.

4 common hand problems

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms associated with osteoarthritis are less pronounced than rheumatoid arthritis. Aside from joint pain and swelling, rheumatoid arthritis sufferers also experience low-grade fever and extreme levels of fatigue. The morning stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis tend to last for more than an hour, while this is typically less than 20 minutes in osteoarthritis.

Furthermore, the swelling of the joints in rheumatoid arthritis is almost always symmetrical and commonly affects tiny joints such as the wrists, knuckles, shoulders, elbows, cervical spine, and even the joints between the bones in the inner ear. Osteoarthritis, on the other hand, tends to affect weight-bearing joints such as the hips, lower spine, and knees. Swelling can either be unilateral or bilateral. Progression of pain in osteoarthritis tends to be more gradual in comparison to rheumatoid arthritis.

In some cases of rheumatoid arthritis, vital organs such as the kidneys and liver may be damaged. This doesn’t happen in osteoarthritis, where damage is limited to the joints only.


Treatment for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis often involves a combination of lifestyle changes and medications to reduce pain and swelling. Surgery is typically reserved for severe cases of deformities or disabilities.

The Advanced Specialty Care offers surgery for sufferers of both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. Call (203) 830-4700 today to contact us. Our board certified hand surgeons provide treatment in the Fairfield County, Connecticut town of Danbury.

Topics: Hand Surgery, Dr. Sohel Islam

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