What is the difference between osteoarthritis and other forms of autoimmune arthritis such as Rheumatoid arthritis?

What is the difference between osteoarthritis and other forms of autoimmune arthritis such as Rheumatoid arthritis?

Although symptoms of the different forms of arthritis can appear similar it is important to distinguish between them to ensure appropriate treatment can be given.  There are a few key differences that can distinguish osteoarthritis from other forms such as rheumatoid arthritis.

  1. Onset – Osteoarthritis develops when cartilage (tissue in your joints that cushions your bones) wears away and is primarily a degenerative joint condition. Pain occurs when bone rubs against bone. This type of arthritis pain tends to develop gradually and intermittently over several months or years which is why age is a risk factor for osteoarthritis. On the other hand, rheumatoid arthritis tends to have a more rapid onset occurring at any age. As the immune system attacks the tissue in the joints the pain and stiffness experienced usually worsen over weeks or a few months. Additionally, other symptoms such as fatigue, fever and weakness might precede the actual joint pain.
  2. Location – Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both affect the hands. However, osteoarthritis frequently affects the joint closest to the tip of the finger, whereas rheumatoid arthritis usually spares this joint. Rheumatoid arthritis can appear in any joint, its most regular targets are the hands, wrists, and feet.
  3. Type of stiffness – stiffness in a medical sense refers to how easily a joint moves, if it does not move as readily as it should this is then determined to be a stiff joint. In osteoarthritis it is common for mild morning stiffness of joints to fade after a few minutes of activity. This stiffness can also occur during the day if an affected joint is kept in the same position for extended periods. With rheumatoid and other autoimmune forms of arthritis morning stiffness tends to only ease after an hour or more.
  4. Risk factors – You are more likely to develop osteoarthritis arthritis if you are overweight, have joint deformities, have diabetes or gout or have experienced trauma to your joints. Although the exact cause of rheumatoid arthritis is not known it is believed that it is likely a combination of environmental and genetic effects. If you have a grandparent, parent, sibling or other close family member with rheumatoid arthritis you have a higher chance of developing the condition.
Article Author
Arthritis National Research Foundation

The Arthritis National Research Foundation's mission is to provide initial research funding to brilliant, investigative scientists with new ideas to cure arthritis and related autoimmune diseases. Writing articles about the patients affected and the science being done to find a cure shows why we need to come together to #CureArthritis!

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