Differences Between Osteoarthritis And Rheumatoid Arthritis

Around 10 million people in the UK suffer from arthritis, a chronic condition that attacks the joints. While there are several different types of arthritis, the two most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). While sufferers will experience similar symptoms of joint pain, swelling and impaired mobility, the two types of arthritis do have several major differences.


Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis and is a degenerative condition where the cartilage or tissue around the joints becomes worn and breaks down, allowing the bones to rub together and causing pain and swelling. You are more likely to develop OA as you age and women are three times more likely than men to have OA.


Once OA has been diagnosed, sufferers are likely to experience a gradual degeneration of the joints. OA sometimes affects only one joint in the body, though more typically more than one will be affected.


By contrast, rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the joints, causing an excess of fluid to gather and inducing the inflammation and swelling that is typical of the condition. RA can occur at any age – in children it’s known as juvenile rheumatoid arthritis – and the disease’s effects can often be seen quickly, unlike the slow, degenerative effect of OA. RA sufferers generally will experience pain and inflammation in both hands or in both feet, this form of the condition being more symmetrical than OA.


While both patients with OA and RA will experience stiffness in their joints early in the day, OA sufferers may enjoy some relief from the stiffness over the course of the day that RA sufferers will not. Those with rheumatoid arthritis are likely to feel increased tiredness and a general feeling of ill health.


Both forms of the disease are usually treated with medication designed to reduce the swelling, provide pain relief and slow down the joint damage.

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